The Internet of Things (or IoT) is the talk of the tech community and brands, from Silicon Valley to Silicon Roundabout. Put simply, it’s about devices connecting and communicating relentlessly with each other. From fridges and washing machines to smoke alarms and TVs, you name it – it’s all getting connected and soon enough you too will be using smartphones, tablets and voice control features to communicate with your devices.

Why is it important?

According to Gartner, by 2020 there’ll be 26 billion connected devices globally, generating a projected $7.1 trillion in sales. It’s not easy to digest this figure and even less easy to get your head around the extent of data these devices will create and collate – huge volumes, holding valuable insight and innovation opportunities for firms.

Industry leaders such as Google and Apple are already ploughing ahead, creating partnerships with or acquiring new and disruptive firms who harness and manipulate this technology. For example, Google recently paid $3.2 billion for Nest Labs, a home automation company co-founded by the godfather of the iPod and iPhone. While Apple has introduced HomeKit, an IoT platform that will coordinate various third party home automation accessories, allowing you to communicate with your home via Siri.

Is it overhyped and premature?

Outstanding questions – such as how exactly will these devices communicate with one another if they are produced by different manufacturers, or how extensive programming might be if consumers need things changed – remain to be solved. These could hamper both the development and take up of such technology in the short-run. The longer-term view however is that the possibilities of this technology are starting to appear less outlandish. Indeed, it is widely believed that soon enough they will be used to effectively solve every day problems. But the new emerging question will be – do all consumers want that? There are signs that there is appetite for this type of technology. New research from App Annie shows that downloads of connected device apps have seen a 50% increase in the United States since last year, with growth in media, productivity, health and fitness, home and watch being particularly strong.