Sunday, March 1, 2015
The Internet of Things
I read two statements in Kyle Gargaro’s HVACR News editorial that really jumped out at me. He said that 40% of the thermostats sold in 2014 had internet capability. Later he stated that in the coming years the number of devices connected to the internet would exceed the number of people. I found that a little unnerving. Then I thought, I am not connected to the internet, my computer is – and it is definitely a thing. So what is so weird about my thermostat being connected to the internet? Digital thermostats are really just small computers with a very specific task. The difference is just in the human interface and the much narrower scope of operation. However, the real idea of the internet of things is not so much to allow us to talk to our thermostat. There is not really a lot to say to your thermostat. It is the possibility of our things communicating with each other so they can accomplish their tasks cooperatively. For example, the alarm clock can tell the thermostat, coffee pot, hot water heater, and toaster when I plan to arise. They can all use that information to make sure they each perform their function in a timely manner, so I have warm water, a warm house, hot coffee, and toast all at the right time. Or an internet connected electric meter can tell the thermostat when electric rates will increase and decrease, allowing the thermostat to consider the ideal time to turn back my system. I heard a great use the other day on NPR. A cardiologist has his patients wear a bracelet that monitors their blood pressure. The wrist device is connected to their phones via Bluetooth and they can upload their blood pressure history to his office. He can see not just the blood pressure when they walk in, but what it has been for a week or a month. The connected things allow the doctor a much better view of their health, so he can make more informed decisions. Suppose you had all the system’s relevant voltages, pressures, and temperatures before you got in your truck? Or a tool that takes those readings, provides a diagnosis, and offers possible corrective actions? These actually exist now, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I think they may become commonplace when the internet of things takes off.