The animated TV show, The Jetsons, introduced America to the concept of helpful robots, automatically opening doors, and a home that adapted to their every need. When the show first aired, a Jetsons future seemed right around the corner, but 60 years later many of the helpful inventions still seem far off.
But that’s beginning to change, thanks to a movement known as the “Internet of Things” or IoT. By putting computers and displays into everyday devices, from your car to your treadmill, and connecting them to the internet, formerly “dumb” items can now do amazing things.
Making the World Safer & More Efficient
Some of the IoT is already here. Smartphones are the first example — by adding computer chips and a display to simple cell phones, Apple, Samsung and Google have created whole new ways to interact with friends, take and share pictures, and go shopping. A company called Nest has re-envisioned the thermostat by giving it the ability to learn your habits and automatically control the temperature so you are more comfortable and save money, too. And some cars can now report on their own health, proactively scheduling maintenance, adapting to your driving habits, and helping you avoid traffic.
But the IoT is more than just a few whizz-bang features or saving a few dollars. By bringing billions of formerly “dumb” devices online, vast new amounts of data can be generated that, when properly analyzed, can make the world safer and more efficient. According to MIT Professor Sandy Pentland, “We can unravel where people are, where they want to go and what they are going to do next, and begin to understand and improve how people utilize and interact with essential resources like transportation, public health and more.”
Those same insights, along with the growing network of devices that can both generate and use those insights, will usher in a new wave of what’s being called “anticipatory computing.” Your house will know which days you wake up early and start your coffee that much earlier. Your toothbrush will proactively monitor your dental health and recommend your next dentist’s appointment. And apps like Google Now already scan your calendar, your social media feed and other data sources to provide information relevant to not just what you’re doing right now, but what you’ll likely do in the future.
Health and fitness are in the vanguard of the IoT movement. Wearable devices like the Garmin Forerunner and Fitbit Force might look like watches, but are actually sophisticated data collectors that capture steps walked, distance travelled, stairs climbed, and even your sleep habits. Koko FitClub has connected the entire gym, not just capturing data from every pound lifted and calorie burned, but also analyzing that data to recommend optimal workouts based on your habits and goals. And the Scanadu Scout, a device the size of a hockey puck, checks your vital signs every few minutes and sends that information to both your Smartphone and your doctor.
Currently, few smart devices coordinate with each other. Your car, for example, can’t tell your home’s thermostat to warm up the house because you left the office fifteen minutes early. But there are many companies working on common protocols that will mesh together individual devices and data streams into one common picture of what you’re doing and even what you’re feeling. Instead of logging on to the Internet, or using an app on your phone, the Internet will be all around us, merging the digital world with the physical world.
Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer, Koko FitClub
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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.