Until recently, connecting a device to the internet of things was expensive and difficult. Smart thermostats, lighting systems and appliances from giants like Samsung and GE communicated through obscure wireless standards that required installing specialized, internet of things-only wireless hubs. But in the past year or so, companies like Qualcomm, Intel and Texas Instruments have created inexpensive, power-efficient chips that enable pretty much anything to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, or to a mobile phone via a standard called Bluetooth Low Energy. The advent of these chips isn’t so a product of some groundbreaking technology. It’s driven more by growing interest among startups with novel visions for the future of the internet, as well as giant corporations companies looking to cash in, or at least not miss out on the next big thing.
The other, equally important driver of internet of things is that, through smartphones and cheap wireless chips, technology companies may have finally found a way to foist the internet of things onto more people, whether they want it there or not. Companies like GE now consider the smartening of their appliances for the coming era of smart homes to be a selling point to consumers. And in the process consumers discover that they can control their appliances in a way that saves energy.