Although estimates vary widely, most experts agree that in the next five years, the number of devices — everything from computer tablets to thermostats — connected to the internet will be over 200 billion, with over 30 billion categorized as “autonomous.” Refrigerators that can automatically order food, medicine cabinets that can monitor prescriptions, and temperature controls that can interface with other appliances in the home are often described in the media as “The Internet of Things.”
Known colloquially as the IoT, the Internet of Things simply refers to technological products that can interface with the internet, and — often — with each other. At home and at work, “smart” appliances are beginning to change the face of our daily lives. From smart beverage containers that tell us when it’s time to get a refill, to smart washing machines that monitor usage and automatically take steps to save water for the owner, appliances that are designed to make our lives easier are becoming commonplace.
Experts say that our work lives will change radically as a result of rapidly evolving digital technology: the world of material handling and project management may be on the verge of major change. Using robotics to fulfill orders in large warehouses may minimize product loss, and being able to monitor employee damage to equipment are both in the experimental stage, but are being deployed at many factories across the country.
Software developers and operations leadership alike are banking on the ability of the new technology to deliver financial benefit and measurable results. The role of robotics cannot be underestimated in the new economy, experts say, and with current demand for process excellence and faster delivery of products from warehouses and factories all over the country, material handling using smart technology is rapidly becoming the norm.
With pressure building to minimize waste and to speed up delivery times across every manufacturing industry, having more precise sensors and controls in place seems to be an effective way to monitor costs, waste, and even to keep track of employees’ locations and interactions with equipment. As we become more connected to the internet, our work lives will continue to focus more on efficiency and process excellence.