This concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) was first introduced by technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton, while working at Procter and Gamble. In the late 1990s, Procter and Gamble had a big problem with their supply chain and Kevin Ashton was looking to solve this problem using RFID technology. It was a concept way ahead of its time. Kevin Ashton then went on to found the Auto-ID Center at MIT to further advance this concept. Since then, the IoT gained a ton of momentum as sensor and networking equipment has become cheaper, smaller and more energy efficient. As we move beyond machines relying on humans, we are able to add connectivity to all sorts of new devices. By providing devices with better information, us humans are able to stay more informed, automate and take action like never before.
This is really not the first time we have seen automation in our lives though. Before we take a look at where the IoT is going, let’s take a look back.
In the early 20th century, electricity was starting to be introduced into the home and with this came a lot of new innovations. For instance:
- The first lightweight, electric iron was introduced in 1903.
- The first refrigerator was introduced in 1913. The first electric dishwasher was also introduced around that time.
- In 1919, the world saw the first automatic, pop-up toaster that came from an innovator who was tired of burnt and inconsistent toast.
- The 1930s saw the first washing machines and dryers.
- In 1952, there was the first automatic coffee pot.
- In 1963, GE introduced the first self-cleaning oven.
These devices were created by innovators looking to save time, energy and frustration from manual tasks. People saw what could be done with electricity and started to innovate. When those first devices, such as the electric iron, were made available, it made people think about what could come next.
An interesting story from this era comes from a woman named Josephine Cochrane. She was a wealthy housewife who invented the first automatic dishwasher. As a woman with servants and maids, why would she need an automatic dishwasher? The answer is simple. She got tired of her dishes being chipped and damaged while being hand washed. Josephine said to herself, “If nobody is going to invent an automatic dishwasher, I am.” She did just that.
The promise of IoT is just like this. As problems in everyday life are identified, companies are jumping up to say, "I'm going to fix them!" Companies are already utilizing resources to save time, energy and frustration by building on current technologies to propel the IoT into the future.