In the not-too-distant future, the Internet of Things will change how we live – everything from the way we do business to how we consume resources. As the physical and digital worlds merge through connected devices, experts like eBay’s Steve Yankovich say we’ll face unprecedented challenges – and opportunities.
“I have a moonshot idea that might take between five years to a decade – it’s creating a digital personal assistant. Imagine not having to run errands, like going to the grocery store or getting an oil change,” Yankovich said at a recent panel discussion hosted by the World Affairs Council in San Jose. “The Internet of Things makes it possible for data and analytics to figure out what people need or want to do and does it. This is why it’s important to eBay. It’s creating an economy of the people.”
And the implications of the Internet of Things extend beyond commerce. Yankovich, eBay’s vice president of Innovation and New Ventures, and other panelists – including Katherine Butler of GE Software, Guido Jouret of Cisco, Stephen Pattison of ARM, and moderator Aleecia McDonald of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society – predicted that key innovations would happen in the fields like health care and manufacturing.
“Fifty million people in this country look after an elderly loved one,” Jouret said. “Technologies will power people and give them access to information. Today, the Internet of Things is for the ‘worried well,’ but in the future, it can be used to look after elderly parents, and they can be independent again.”
Consumer access to popular data gadgets like the Fitbit, Yankovich said, would accelerate change.
“Consumers will continue to demand to have everything better and easier, and the smart entrepreneurs will build these products that improve our lives,” he said. “This has radical implications for the medical community. Imagine a mini ultrasound gadget we wear that can send data directly to our doctors. Consumers will demand these life-saving technologies.”
Companies will also see a massive shift.
“All of the companies out there have tons of equipment and they will continue to buy equipment, but we have to do more with less,” Butler said. “Getting connectivity on big industrial devices will make things more efficient. … The Internet of Things in industrial devices will allow us to think proactively – like knowing when a wind turbine may fail and fixing it beforehand.”
Pattison said he saw enormous relevance for industrial applications in what he termed the repatriation of manufacturing.
“Manufacturing goes to various parts of the world to lower cost,” he said. “The Internet of Things will allow us to have factories in remote areas and modify what they’re creating, revolutionizing the industrial landscape.”
Changes resulting from the Internet of Things will have a huge impact on the quality of life in the developing world as gadgets become smaller and cheaper, Yankovich said.
“We can make inexpensive devices – for example, a watch that can provide a bit of specific information like analyzing the drinking water to make sure it’s clean.”