Great technology doesn’t have to be in your face. It doesn’t have to be a bold, brash phablet, a brightly coloured smartwatch or a state-of-the-art speaker system. Sometimes, it’s something very subtle that quietly changes the world.
If the first wave of consumer tech was all about gadgets and the second all about software and apps, then the third wave is about what is increasingly known by the weird name of the ‘Internet of Things’ or M2M (Machine to Machine) technology.
While this sounds like the plot from a scary science fiction film, essentially what it means that any device can be connected to the internet, from the humble light bulb to the household boiler – even the car you drive. Want to switch your heating on using your smartphone before getting on a flight from Spain so the house is warm when you walk in? Or change the colour of your living room lights with the weather to suit your mood? Both these things are now possible with the latest heating and lighting control systems.
But the ‘internet of things’ doesn’t just have to be about human beings taking greater control. It is also possible to let the machines themselves take charge wherever appropriate so you don’t have to worry about the mundane bits. Instead of our very own personal robot which wanders round the house like Metal Mickey in the 1980s TV show, home automation is becoming much more subtle: internet-connected devices talk to each other so you don’t have to intervene if you don’t want to. For example, you could be walking down a hallway and motion sensors trigger the lights. Or the curtains automatically sense when it’s dark and close themselves. Nor is this level of sophisticated control confined to the house. Already car companies have developed the ability for your vehicle to reverse into a parking space without you having to perform a complicated manoeuvre. They can even sense when you are getting too close to the car in front and apply the brakes for you or move you into another lane. The next stage is, of course, a completely self-driving car where all you have to worry about is pressing the start and stop button (Google’s working on it). Should make for easier driving tests, we reckon!