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Tech talks: When machines speak to each other

The internet of things is leading us towards a machine-to-machine revolution and a new era of human efficiency driven by fast, accessible internet.

We all want to spend more time doing what we enjoy and hanging out with those we love, and less time working, but there’s just so much to do.

So we started building machines to help solve this problem: to improve our efficiency by granting us a helping hand unrestricted by the limitations of the human body and, more recently, the human mind. These machines have evolved exponentially. So what can we expect next?

No doubt you have heard of the Internet of Things: it’s one of the big buzz terms in technology at the moment. The huge improvement in internet infrastructure throughout Australia is allowing more and more machines to connect to the world around them.

They predominantly use this connectivity to gather real-time data in order to more efficiently complete their assigned task, whatever it may be. A simple example could be your TV or streaming app suggesting an alternate show based on what other people with similar tastes have watched.

A more niche one might be smart locks, or smart lights. By 2020, the average Australian home is predicted to house 29 connected devices.

The next big step for the Internet of Things is for these connected machines to talk not to us, but to each other. It’s been coined machine-to-machine or M2M.

If one machine is fulfilling a task that has a knock-on effect to another, why does it wait for a human to point this out? It’s not always necessary, so why not cut out the ‘middle man’?

We’ve already seen this for years in contained systems. For example, think of the way that a car knows to engage traction control when the wheels on your car begin to slip.

But now this idea can exist across machines and across vast distances. If Google Maps knows you’re 30 minutes from your destination, and Google Calendar knows your meeting is in 15 minutes, why can’t it automatically inform the other attendees for you of your revised ETA?

The possibilities are limitless, so we wanted to start stimulating your imagination. Here are some examples of how machines could cut out the human in the middle, and make the right decisions without the need for manual input. 

Morning coffee

You’ve set your alarm for 6am and you want to begin you day as you always do, with a warm cup of coffee. By connecting over your home wi-fi, your alarm clock might tell your coffee machine to start brewing a cup so it’s ready as soon as you enter the kitchen.

Better yet, that smart watch on your wrist may have detected you had a restless night and can tell your robot barista to make it a double.

A welcoming home

You’ve just left work and it’s been a long day. As soon as you get home, you want to slip into something comfortable and curl up on the couch.

The GPS on your phone knows how long that trip should take, and your air conditioner knows how long it will take to get your house to the optimal temperature.

The former can advise the latter of your estimated arrival time, so it can turn on at the most efficient moment and hit the perfect temperature as you walk through the door.

Smart sprinklers

The weather service has identified that rain is coming, and it will be in your area shortly. Aware of this, your AI assistant contacts your sprinkler system and deactivates its, now unrequired, daily activity.

This saves your lawn from being overwatered, helps out the environment, and also saves money from your water bill.

Freshly washed clothes

Are you sick of leaving wet loads in the washing machine for too long, requiring them to be re-washed to get rid of that horrid damp smell? What if your washing machine would not turn itself on until an hour out from the optimal drying time?

By connecting to weather monitoring machines that track wind, humidity and sunlight, your washing machine may not only know when to turn itself on, but be able to plot a rough schedule for the whole week.

Expedited medical attention

Wearable devices of the future could monitor your vitals and be able to identify any significant issues in real-time.

They could be able to notify emergency services in the advent of something catastrophic occurring, passing on your vitals, exact location and any personalised medical history, such as blood-type or known allergies.

When emergency services arrive they are pre-prepared with the knowledge and equipment to act swiftly.

Car service on demand

Do you really need to service your car every six months? Not every car and driver behaves the same way and gets the same use.

Future connected vehicles could be able to monitor themselves, identify when a tipping point of issues has arisen and then reach out to your local manufacturer to book in a service based on openings in your connected calendar.

If it’s self-driving, it might even pick a free point in your schedule to drive itself to and from the mechanic!

Fewer red lights

Nothing is more frustrating than being stopped at a red light for a long time when there is no traffic coming the other way.

Future transport infrastructure could use Australia’s high-speed internet to rectify this problem.

The machine controlling the lights could talk directly to local sensors monitoring the traffic in order to adapt to the on-road requirements in real-time.

Sparkling floors

Always fall behind on your home cleanliness?

What if sensors that can pick up the levels of dust particles on your floor and in the air can connect over home wi-fi with automated vacuum cleaners and air-filter systems?

They could then turn on as required, ensuring that a minimal amount of build-up occurs in your home, helping it – and your family – to stay as healthy as possible.

“If This Then That”

Have you heard this phrase before? Often abbreviated as IFTTT, this is a rudimentary system of establishing machine-to-machine connections to help your day-to-day efficiency.

It’s available for use right now for free via the IFTTT website, and is a great experimental tool for those keen to explore more about this inevitable future.

They have helpful tips and ideas to get started, and a number of sites can be found in Google to share great IFTTT discoveries you can copy for your own needs.

It’s time to get M2M ready.

Enough about the internet of things, have you heard about the ‘Internet of Me’? It’s all about personalised, automated algorithms designed to seamlessly run your apps and gadgets, based on your own preferences and usage patterns.

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