Who could have predicted how widely and wildly the Internet would evolve when it was conceived more than 45 years ago?
In a relatively brief time, it's grown from a few connected computers at select universities that only a handful of individuals knew how to operate to a globally connected network that has become engrained in the daily life of the vast majority of the planet's population.
Though the Internet has improved upon a great many things, none is more dramatic than communication. Today the Internet or its underlying technologies facilitate many of the methods that people use to communicate, at least in some part. But evolution is dynamic, and while the advances in communication facilitated by the Internet have been tremendous, there is always room for growth and improvement.
In fact, there is a significant possibility that the augmentation of the Internet through the Internet of Things will advance global communication even further.
Nothing Stays the Same
In the early days of the Internet, it's unlikely many people saw its potential to change global communications. It's much in the same way today: Few people seem to grasp the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) to change the way we communicate. Though there are many applications and products under the umbrella of the IoT that do not delve into the realm of communications, the ones that do offer us a very interesting look at how we can augment our current methods of communications and use the IoT to enrich communication with greater information, context and ease of use.
For me, and I think for most people today, the vast majority of communication takes place through a mobile device. Whether a voice call, text messaging or email, one device does it all for me and countless others. But while my smartphone does its job of keeping me connected and in touch with others very well, it offers very little variety in delivery or context.
Until now, there haven't been many IoT devices that can to enrich our communication experiences. But that seems ready to change. Let's start with a single aspect of the IoT and go from there.
If we look at just wearable tech, and more specifically at smartwatches, we can see a clear jump in this evolution. The first incarnation of the smartwatch was, at best, a notification device. It would beep or vibrate to tell you when you had a message. It might give you a small preview of the message, if it was capable. But that’s about it, aside from letting you know what time it was.
Enter Apple. With the launch of the Apple Watch last year, Apple made it clear that it was changing the focus of the smartwatch. It took it from a notification device to an extension of the smart phone. In effect, it transformed the smartwatch to a unique communications device. While it still uses the phone as its gateway, the watch can send messages and information in novel ways, even turning our biometric information into a context rich message. Just think back to the launch event last year, when Tim Cook responded to a query for a sushi lunch with his racing heartbeat.
If the Apple Watch is the future of the smartwatch and signifies the overall direction wearable tech is destined to head, then we are moving in the right direction. As more devices from across the IoT evolve into items that can augment our communications, the future becomes quite interesting. How convenient will it be to be able to communicate without pulling a phone from a pocket or even locking your eyes on a screen?
As the IoT ecosystem evolves and products become more mature, we will see more ways to communicate. And I'm certain that these devices will stretch far outside of the wearable tech space.
From the smart home to the connected car, there will be new and innovate ways to reach out and touch someone. As devices that are around us and connected to us begin to deliver context rich messages and communicate them to us via new methods, the way we see communication will change …hopefully, for the better.
Title image by Maxime Bédard (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.