By now you have undoubtedly heard the term, The Internet of Things, often expressed as IoT. You may have wondered to yourself what exactly that is and more importantly, what does it mean to those of us in the HVAC industry?
The Internet of Things can be described as a network of physical objects – devices, appliances, vehicles, buildings etc. that are all embedded with electronics, software sensors and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect, exchange, analyze and act on this data. Stop and think for just a minute about the breathtaking implications of that definition. A ubiquitous network of data-gathering sensors communicating through the cloud in constant, real time and instantaneous connection. But what does it really mean?
Steve Case, cofounder of AOL in 1985, can be seen making the rounds of talk shows discussing his new book entitled The Third Wave. With the title, Case pays homage to futurist Alvin Toffler, who published a book by the same name in 1980 and was written as a sequel to Future Shock, which was published 10 years earlier. According to Case, we are entering a new paradigm called the 3rd wave of the Internet. The first wave saw AOL and other companies lay the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet. The 2nd wave saw companies like Google and Facebook create search and social networking capabilities while a variety of apps leveraged the smart phone revolution. The 3rd wave describes a period in which entrepreneurs will vastly transform major sectors like health, education, transportation, energy, construction and food in ways that fundamentally change the way we live our daily lives. These changes, Case explains, will require a different skill set for employees and will require companies to rethink their relationships with customers, competitors – even the government. How will these changes manifest themselves?
Take our nation’s aging infrastructure. How do we possibly prioritize spending given such massive needs? We could for example, embed sensors into “smart cement” to monitor stresses, cracks and warpages. Sensors in smart cement – the same ones used to detect stress – can also detect ice on the bridge and communicate that information to a wireless Internet in your car. Once your car knows there is a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him. In the case of HVAC, sensors in the building, ductwork, thermostat etc. will work in harmony to deliver a ratio of comfort to efficiency not possible today. There is not a single job in the industry that won’t be transformed by such technology, and there are predictions that this future is as close as 10 years away – well within the career span of many people working today.
The entrepreneurs in the HVAC industry are those companies and employees who stay on top of current developments, while preparing for how to monetize on those advances. The opportunities are endless, and much more vast than most of us realize!
Sources: Simon and Schuster; Wired.com