The Internet of Things (IoT) opened the door to a world of possibilities by connecting all kinds of consumer devices to the Internet. From smart saunas to indoor air quality monitors, connected devices are dramatically improving quality of life—and even saving lives. And with the rise of 5G and BLE, these technologies could become even more powerful and ubiquitous.
Let's take a look at five connected devices that improve quality of life and what the future might hold for the IoT industry.
Smartwatches are the most ubiquitous connected device, serving as a hub for all kinds of tracking and alerting capabilities. Since most people are already comfortable wearing a watch, these devices have become a natural starting point for connected wearables. According to Pew Research, about one-in-five Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and smartwatch sales could reach nearly $30 billion by 2028.
Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch with more than a 50% market share. With the latest Series 7, wearers can track everything from their heart rate to their blood oxygen levels. In addition, the device tracks atrial fibrillations—a potentially deadly heart condition—and serious falls, automatically calling for help when necessary. There are already plenty of examples where the smartwatch has saved lives.
Next generation smartwatches could include new sensors to measure body temperature, blood pressure, or even blood glucose levels (more on that later). At the same time, the widespread adoption of smartwatches could enhance their predictive powers. For example, heart rate correlates with changes in blood cell count and subtle body temperature changes could predict viral infections before any symptoms arise.
#2. Sleep Trackers
Sleep is essential to a high quality of life, and conversely, sleep deficiency is associated with a wide range of diseases. While most experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep, about a quarter of adults report insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days. A 2010 review of studies found that sleeping too little increases the risk of early death.
Sleep trackers make it easy to track sleep by looking at heart rate, breathing, temperature, and movement using a variety of sensors. For example, the Oura Ring takes these measurements via an unobtrusive ring with a battery length measured in days. The data is sent to the wearer's smartphone and crunched to assess sleep duration and quality, empowering them to make lifestyle changes to improve.
The same technologies could help set smart alarms based on individual sleep requirements and the current sleep cycle. For instance, the device may target eight hours of sleep but avoid setting off an alarm when the wearer is in a deep sleep cycle, as that could cause grogginess. They could also make recommendations to maximize energy during the day by taking a power nap or going for a walk.
#3. Glucose Monitors
Blood glucose levels play an essential role in overall health. For people with diabetes that require insulin, continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps have significantly improved their quality of life. Rather than periodically pricking a finger and injecting insulin, these devices automatically check blood glucose levels and administer the correct dose of insulin based on those readings without any interventions.
Levels makes it easy to correlate blood glucose with activities and nutrition. Source: TechCrunch
Some startups are also introducing continuous glucose monitors to the general public, such as Levels Health. In addition to understanding and minimizing their risk of diabetes, tracking blood glucose levels using continuous glucose monitors can help determine how foods affect energy levels and figure out ways to even out energy throughout the day, maximizing their metabolism and quality of life.
#4. Smart Saunas
Saunas are becoming an increasingly popular at-home wellness device, providing a range of potential health benefits. Emerging evidence suggests time in a sauna could help reduce blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary disease, neurocognitive diseases, and even improve longevity through a variety of different mechanisms.
While saunas may seem like an ideal time to disconnect, modern saunas leverage internet connectivity to enable users to heat up saunas remotely and alert owners when maintenance is needed. Smartphone apps can also help users track their sauna usage and correlate it with their mood, energy levels, or other potential benefits.
#5. Air Quality Monitors
Carbon emissions, wildfires, and other sources of outdoor air pollution have become a major concern for governments and individuals, but a growing body of evidence indicates that indoor air pollution can be more severe than even the largest and most industrialized cities. Those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease could be in for an especially difficult time.
In addition, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year—including 2,900 among people who have never smoked. According to the EPA, one-in-three homes it checked had screening levels over 4 pCi/L—the agency's recommended action level.
Airthings dashboard makes it easy to track air quality trends in your home. Source: Airthings
Indoor air quality monitors can help track carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM2), and radon on a continuous basis. By analyzing trends over time, it's much easier to spot problematic air quality and address it before it causes respiratory problems or even increases the risk of lung cancer.
The rise of 5G cellular networks and WiFi 6 opens the door to faster speeds and lower latency while providing greater security and lower power consumption. At the same time, hardware and firmware is becoming smaller, more rugged, and more energy efficient, creating opportunities to build IoT connectivity into new devices and address different use cases.
In addition, cloud computing is making it easier to add artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data storage capabilities to IoT applications. These tools can help connected device makers deliver even more insights to customers, adding significant long-term value and creating new barriers to entry.
The Bottom Line
Connected devices are transforming consumer productivity, health, and happiness by unlocking new potential. While these five devices are today's cutting-edge technologies, they're only scratching the surface of what's possible when you connect even the smallest devices to the internet or a mesh network (WiFi or Bluetooth).
If you're developing IoT solutions, Intent has experience with companies like Oura Ring and can help you achieve the best user experience.