The Internet of Things (IOT) is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, IOT consists of technologically advanced objects that have the ability to transmit information, and potentially even sense, monitor and react to human behavior.

Most discussions of IOT revolve around how it will come to impact our lives over the coming decades. But few realize how much of an impact IOT already has on our daily lives.

Here are 5 ways IOT already affects our lives today.

1. Transportation

AT&T just added 2.1 million new wireless lines last quarter, but only about half of them were for people. The other half were built into automobiles. GM, BMW, and others have teamed up with AT&T to enable LTE in their vehicles, which is changing the way people travel.

GM-4G-LTE-4

Image via Laptop Mag

Now is just the beginning of what LTE-enabled cars can offer drivers: real-time traffic information, real-time vehicle diagnostics, and more. Soon drivers will be able to tap into every element of the streets they drive on to analyze traffic patterns and make choices that reduce traffic jams.

Sure, the number of LTE enabled cars on the streets are small at the moment, but that’s not the only way IOT is affecting transportation. Consider the Oyster Card, used as a key to London’s tube system since 2003. The cards have been collecting usage data — where people travel, when, and how often, which is then analyzed and used to optimize the undergound based on users’ specific needs.

2. Health and Exercise

Tech junkies may fantasize about “gyms of the future” equipped with IOT devices, but the technology is already here — on the individual level.

Wearable tech, namely smartwatches and wristbands, have entered the market in droves, offering users all sorts of personalized data about their health and fitness activities. Several steps above a pedometer — smart watches can track your calories burned, heart rate, and a ton of other health data.

And it’s not all about staying in shape — IOT devices can help monitor overall wellness. There are already many smartphone apps that can monitor glucose levels for diabetics and other health data. Meanwhile the 2nd generation iWatch and Simband are rumored to include heart rate monitors and wellness trackers that doctors may be able to use to optimize care for their patients.

3. Home

A “smart house” is one of the first things people think of when you bring up IOT, and we are already far down the road to having them.

Security systems allow you to monitor your home from afar, while smartphone apps can help you optimize your home heating (think of Nest.com), make sure you turned off the stove, and optimize your lighting (think of Postscapes.com).

Image via Nest.com

Image via Nest.com

Perhaps most importantly, IOT technologies already allow people to keep track of children or pets left at home. You can even set up sensors that will notify you when certain doors in your house have been opened — a helpful tool for caregivers. Looks like our household objects will only get smarter. How long more will it be until we have some robots to perform every task for us?

4. Business

IOT is also helping businesses optimize in a number of ways. Some stores are already using signals from shoppers’ smartphones to track their behavior in-store, pairing it up with their online data to get the most in-depth customer profile possible. Retailers with apps can then use the data to deliver coupons and special promotional material to the customer’s phone at the perfect time and place.

And it’s not just about optimizing marketing tactics. IOT equipment sensors are already being used to monitor machines and notify businesses of malfunctions or parts that need repair. A series of sensors, cameras, and lasers can also be used to monitor the manufacturing process of materials to ensure quality (think of SightMachine.com).

5. Pollution and Waste Management

IOT technologies are another great way to monitor pollution and find new ways to reduce waste.

Just consider AirQualityEgg.com, a device that monitors the air quality outside of your home or office, then aggregates the data online to offer metropolitan and regional data. This analysis is then used to measure how urban pollution policies are affecting specific areas.

AirQualityEgg.com

Image via AirQualityEgg.com

WaterBee.eu is a smart irrigation system that helps farmers, golf courses and other enterprises conserve water by monitoring soil from different plots of land and adjusting water usage accordingly.

“The Internet of Things” was a term first coined by Kevin Ashton back in 1999. At the time, he was thinking about the future, and many still do. But one thing is for sure – the IOT is here today, and is affecting our lives more and more. These are just a few examples of the many ways IOT is already penetrating the modern world.