For almost 20 years, people have been talking about the Internet of Things, IOT, and the ways it will, and already has, change the way we live. But what does the term mean? IOT is a network to exchange communications and data between the devices, Machine-to-Machine or M2M, that are capturing information in our physical world with the help of WiFi and Bluetooth; all without human input. Companies are now computing this data through the internet to understand how to best utilize all this information that is being gathered.

The term “Internet of Things” was first coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton as a way to talk about our future driven by data collected by sensors found in pretty much every sort of product that we use in our daily lives. The internet - still a hot new technology in the late-20th century - is the only system large enough and connected to enough people to give the information a place to be stored, quantified, and then used for people and businesses benefit; at least, that is the goal. With so many possibilities, it makes sense that the wave of new intelligent devices with data computing abilities is growing along with the thinkers needed to identify problems and solutions to harness the abilities of the technologies. Cloud Storage is a new innovation that makes collecting unlimited amounts of data less taxing on servers and memory banks that require space, and labor to maintain them.

It started with a lipstick. Ashton, then working for Procter & Gamble, wanted to know why a certain shade of brown lipstick was never in stock, even though the factory said there was more than enough inventory. That’s when he decided to make one of the first “smart packages” using a relatively new technology of high frequency RFID tags. His bosses were intrigued with his idea, and sent him to work with MIT’s Auto-ID Center. A simple RFID chip no more than a few millimeters long added to the product can track and relay supply and demand immediately, eliminate human error in scanning products along with downsizing labor needed, and advertise on a personal level to the consumers purchasing said item.

Flash forward to present day, and smart products are literally everywhere. Companies are gearing their products so that they can learn about the consumers who will be using them and the environments that the devices will work in. Weather sensors can tell you the amount of pollution that you encounter on your commute to work. Wearable technology can collect such a wide range of data about yourself; from how many steps you take in a day to how that cup of coffee in the afternoon is affecting your health, and so much data in between. Your smart TV knows more about your show preferences than you do, and some even know when to shut itself off when you’ve left the room. Self-driving cars are no longer a dream of the future, but a technology in the early stages of development.

The Millennium was just the door cracking opening to the possibilities technology can change our lives. Look at a show from 40 years ago and then compare with the technologies we have today - many of the ideas that were considered out of this world ideas are now the basis for many of the electronic items we use daily. Knowing the capabilities we have now, the real question is what will we be able to advance next, and how will it revolutionize the ways we live?