The Internet of Things (IoT) is often defined as a network of interconnected devices, such as sensors, smartphones, and wearables, or the transfer of data between everyday objects with computing capabilities. It’s where physical infrastructure meets the digital universe, and where machines can “talk” to one another. The IoT creates a connected world, and it’s growing exponentially. One forecast from The Economist predicts that there will be “a trillion connected computers by 2035, built into everything from food packaging to bridges and clothes.”

But what exactly will our smart cities look like, and how will IoT affect how we live and work? Here’s a glance at some recent technologies that may shape how we relate to technology – and to one another – in the not-so-distant future:

  • Modern Medicine– like the new Stanford Hospital, which opened its doors back in November, touting futuristic features including a fleet of robots programmed to deliver linens, take out the trash, and prepare individual-dose prescriptions for medication-dispensing systems throughout the hospital; the ability for patients to adjust the room temperature or order a meal via a bedside tablet; and its MyHealth app, which provides updated electronic health records and allows patients and their families to view test results, pay medical bills, or send a message to a physician.
  • Tender-less Bars- like Sestra System’s TapWise platform, which allows for automated self-service beer stations with controlled access (e.g., via an app, RFID, or pin code); precision pouring to avoid waste and deliver just the right amount of foam; and real-time data on inventory, event schedules, weather, and point-of-sale records.
  • Smart Farming- like Microsoft Azure’s FarmBeats, a platform which utilizes a system of sensors, drones, TV white spaces, and cloud solutions to provide robust data analytics in the agricultural sector, with features ranging from soil moisture maps to livestock tracking, ultimately increasing crop yield and reducing waste.
  • Next Generation Fashion- like Levi’s new jean jacket that incorporates Google’s Jacquard™ technology, allowing wearers to connect the jacket to their smartphone and perform actions (e.g., play music, take a photo, or send a message) through the interactive jacket cuff and receive LED-light notifications without looking at their screen.
  • Automated Waste Management- like Songdo, South Korea’s truck-free waste management system, comprised of pneumatic pipes and automated waste bins, which automatically sorts, recycles, buries, or burns the waste through a network of underground pipes leading to the city’s processing center.

While the world may be setting the stage for embracing 5G and the benefits that come with more efficient energy usage, concerns about cybersecurity and hacking into connected devices loom on the horizon. With greater connectivity comes greater responsibility for privacy and data security, and tech companies should take heed to protect consumers.