What’s the future of the Internet of Things?

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow’s media environment will look very different from today’s, and will have little resemblance to yesterday’s.

The Internet is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our daily lives.  The media and technology industries are also moving beyond individual, detached devices to new arrangements that connect our devices to one another and to larger systems of response.

In this new arrangement, PCs and smartphones will remain fundamental but other devices like tablets, appliances, and wearables will join them to connect a network of physical objects or “things”.  Each thing will be embedded with software and sensors that enable it to exchange data with the operator and other connected devices through the Internet. Hence, the Internet of Things (IoT).

Some technology experts predict that wearable devices will follow a similar growth pattern to smartphones. Wearables have increased their global market value by over 1,000% since 2012, and by 2017, this amount is predicted to double, reaching U.S. $12.6 billion.  While many consumers currently think of expensive smart watches and nerdy google glasses when they hear “wearables”, the future of this technology may be much more pragmatic.

As the cost of wearables decreases and as their energy efficiency increases, there will be greater opportunity to work for the underserved.

According to the United Nations more than 43 million people worldwide are now forcibly displaced as a result of conflict and persecution—the highest number since the mid-1990s. One of the most pressing issues in refugee camps is the absence of coordination systems to identify, diagnose and treat large populations. Data is generally self-reported or retrieved using analog methods, resulting in the loss of information and difficulties in developing responses.  Khushi, a project launched on Kickstarter, developed a wearable necklace for babies in the developing world to improve vaccination rates. Likewise, the NFC chip holds vaccination data, identifying a baby’s medical history and connecting the information to a global vaccine database—without the need for batteries or an Internet connection. This initiative, still in the early development stage, is already underway in India. The same technology could be used identify specific nutrient deficiencies and deliver the necessary dose without the need for human assistance.

Similarly, according to the United Nations Population Fund, family planning is a key factor in reducing poverty. Nevertheless, around 225 million women who want to use family planning methods are unable to do so because they lack access to information, services, or support.  Microtech Biochip, a company working on drug delivery and bio-sensing, received a grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a microchip-based contraceptive implant that provides 16 years of reversible birth control for women in developing countries. The implant is placed under the skin and can be wirelessly activated or deactivated by a physician or the patient without removal. In addition, physicians can wirelessly modify the frequency or dose of the drug to meet the individual needs of each patient. This method could also be applied to patients with diabetes, anemia, or hypertension.

This post first appeared on The World Bank People, Spaces, Deliberation Blog.

Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Roxanne Bauer is a consultant to the World Bank’s External and Corporate Relations, Operational Communications department (ECROC).

Image: An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer. REUTERS


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