October 8, 2013

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Around Utah
Around Utah


The Future is Now

Building a Better World with the Internet of Things

By Dan Sorensen

October 8, 2013

As humans, it is in our DNA to connect with our environment in new, powerful ways. Whether it’s organizing the Pony Express, stringing telegraph wires around the Earth or building massive fiber optic networks, improved connections throughout our world help simplify our lives and improve our use of time.

Recently, our vision of a connected world has evolved further, allowing us to not only connect with each other, but to our devices as well. Our cell phones, refrigerators, security systems and thousands of other devices are all becoming part of the “Internet of Things,” the concept that all electronic devices can become connected and managed remotely or automatically.

“The Internet of Things will take place in the areas that address huge pain points for consumers. Things like saving money, protecting family and reducing energy consumption will help drive adoption,” says Matt Eyring, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivint, provider of solar energy solutions, home automation and security systems.

“How many sensors do you have in your home or environment, and are they integrated in a seamless way? Having a large number of integrated sensors and owning all the pieces in the solution will be the way to deliver optimal customer value,” he says.

It is easy to see how creating a network of these integrated sensors can prove beneficial to customers. However, adoption of these devices will ultimately be driven by demonstrating to consumers the benefits of reducing the consumption of resources and simplifying their lives.

Going Green

While not all of us care about the planet, most of us care about money. The ability to reduce the consumption of electricity and water with the Internet of Things has the potential to provide a huge cost savings to consumers. One example is Nest Labs, which offers a Wi-Fi-enabled self-learning thermostat that optimizes your home’s cooling and heating.

Nest claims its thermostats help the average customer save 20 to 30 percent on his or her energy bill, saving approximately 1 billion kilowatt hours of energy over the life of the product. Using sensors, these types of thermostats make better use of heating and cooling by sensing when you’re not home or determining when to use the HVAC fan instead of air conditioning.

There are also tools available that incorporate sensors to help consumers reduce the amount of water they consume. This could be especially beneficial in Utah, where water resources are limited.

“Using a smart controller for your sprinklers can help save massive amounts of water every year,” says Eric Jones, water resource engineer with Utah Division of Water Resources. “The average sprinkling system waters approximately 55 percent efficiently. Using a smart controller that connects to the internet to determine when to water can boost efficiency by 20 to 25 percent, saving the average Utah household thousands of gallons per week.”

Working Smarter

Several local companies are using connectivity to help consumers simplify their lives. Vivint, for example, gives families greater peace of mind with its smart security systems and home automation. Some Utah homebuilders are incorporating a variety of automated systems into the construction of their houses.

“We think this is a big enough deal to include these services in every home we offer,” says Joe Salisbury, partner at Candlelight Homes. “We believe it will become standard and we wanted to integrate early, to be ahead of the curve. When people look at the homes that are being offered, these features make it easy to choose.”

Candlelight Homes builds homes that come standard with automated lighting and thermostat controls, a security system, a front porch camera and a motion sensor.

Early adoption can prove lucrative, if the solutions are right. Utah companies Tōd and Wovyn are helping drive early adoption by providing affordable sensors that monitor an array of things, like temperature, moisture levels and movement. Owlet is another Utah startup offering biomedical sensors that monitor an infant’s heart rate, oxygen levels and many other stats, helping new parents sleep easy at night.

Whether it’s concern your pet might run away, your basement might flood or your child might stop breathing in the middle of the night, the Internet of Things can eliminate many of these nagging worries.

Probably even more important than money, the Internet of Things is capable of saving us millions of hours a day by turning any mobile device into a remote control for our world. Imagine walking into a supermarket with a list of groceries and your smartphone directing you to each item you need. No more pacing back and forth between the aisles trying to find salsa.

In fact, many people might not realize it, but our smartphones are already part of the Internet of Things, helping commuters navigate traffic. Applications like Google Maps take data from all the phones on the road and use it to identify traffic levels. Rerouting around a massive accident could save you time and headache during your commute

Far From Hollywood

While many fear the Internet of Things, the benefits it can provide when all these systems become integrated are undeniably powerful. With the ability to save energy, money and time—not to mention lives—we have much to gain. There are still some security concerns to address; however, the complexity of the Internet of Things is far from the dark threat of Skynet or HAL—Hollywood boogiemen that lead to the demise of humankind.  


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