In today’s technological society, an increasing number of online “gadgets” are becoming available. The question becomes if it is something that is really NEEDED – versus a new-fangled device that is merely WANTED. For instance, John, an office manager, “needs” a smartphone, but he “wants” Android 10. Separating electronic needs from wants is commonly referred to as gaining control of one’s “Internet of things” (IoT).
Consider: There are all kinds of “smart” devices – digital assistants, automatic light switches, and thermostats to name a few – all of which are designed to help make everyone’s life a little easier. If it can be hooked up to the internet the smart device allows the user to see what is going on remotely. But does anyone really need all of these devices? What would John, for instance, do with them? And would John need ALL of them hooked up to the internet?
Just what is Their Attraction anyway?
Having the ability to access devices remotely is nothing new. Surveillance cameras and answering machines are two big-ticket items that consumers have been using for some time. But micro-controllers (really tiny computers) and WiFi connections are integrating more and more of these items into our lives. The attraction is that these devices give people the ability to access and control their personal space.
Let’s go back to “John”, who has a number of these gadgets – light switches, personal assistant, security camera, and printer – all of which can be controlled by an app on his phone or his computer at work. John can turn on the lights at his business as he walks into the office or have them turn on 10 minutes before he arrives. He can tell when an important document has printed via an app on his phone. John can even program his digital assistant to track his commutes; even turning on his computer when he’s still 30 minutes from work!
With all of these gadgets coming online, one cannot help but ask – “Is this really necessary?” and then, if the answer is “yes,” the next question naturally becomes – “Which particular model would be best?” The answer depends on what John, or anyone else, thinks he or she needs. The following sections will help decide.
What Can They Do for Me?
Devices can be considered to fall under two categories – Need and Convenience.
Being able to turn on the lights at John’s office remotely can be very handy when he is running behind in the morning or he is working late (at night) and hears noises. Extending the number of documents a printer can kick out remotely when John has a big presentation to make in the morning can be considered a nice thing to be able to do as well. This is where John needs to get a good grasp of what he would use this convenience for and how often it would benefit the business?
Does John really need to know that his printer is done printing before he gets to work? Or could he call “Julie” on his cell phone and ask her to finish his big printing job? How many documents are typically printed in a given day? Week? Or was the extensive printing that just crops up from time to time, that Julie could normally handle?
If the businessman can honestly answer that the device would be used enough to truly benefit from having it, then it is likely an actual need more than simply a convenient “nice to have”.
What Are Their Features?
The features that an Internet of Things (IoT) device provides also need to be considered when deciding whether it’s needed or just wanted. It’s one thing to be able to control a certain gadget or tell what it is doing remotely. But what if these things could take quick action in the event of a significant business situation?
* It’s one thing to be surprised that the pages in the extensive document were printed single-sided and not back to back. But what if that meant the printer ran out of paper. Would a printer with a SMART feature have prevented that?
* If someone breaks into the office after business hours, will the SMART surveillance system contact the police?
* If an answering machine (i.e. voicemail) was hooked up to a SMART device, could it be turned off remotely if going on vacation? Or could messages be forwarded to someone else in the office?
* Finally, will the device tell the user when it needs service?
It is that ability for IoT gadgets to talk to each other, react to changing conditions and even potentially save the business in light of a burglary that can change wants to needs! Of course the next question is: “How much are these features worth to the business?”
How Much Money Do You Have?
Ah….there’s always a catch! But not necessarily a big one. As devices have more and more electronics built in, the greater features will grow but prices also tend to come down – over time. For now, the businessman may be stuck in the discernment stage but not to fret, as time goes on, the features of technology will tend to go up while the price comes down and other electronic developers enter the field.
At the end of the day, the convenience, increased functionality, safety, and savings created by IoT SMART devices makes yesterday’s wants today’s needs.
About the Author
Mike Bivins is an engineer with the Lake Wales, FL-based Natural Air E-Controls, LLC (www.naturalair.com). Natural Air E-Controls, LLC designs and builds HVAC control systems that enable the building’s HVAC equipment to provide fresh air and remove pollutants by taking in outdoor air in amounts needed to improve indoor air quality while saving on heating and cooling bills.