The first time I got lost in San Francisco I stood on a street corner for 30 minutes throwing my hands up and talking wildly as bus after bus passed me by, heading the wrong direction. The next day I was still loudly fuming over the woes of public transportation when my roommate said those 5 little words: “There’s an app for that.” The second time I got lost in San Francisco I was ready. I whipped out my navigation app and found the closest line. It took me a record 4 minutes to figure out which side of the street to stand on, then I was on it, flying over the slopes of Nob Hill.
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Fast-forward 6 months and I had mastered some routes, could navigate a few neighborhoods without relying on Google Maps, and no longer noticed the stench of MUNI, which had become like the familiar scent of a good friend. Everything was easier. “Thank you, app,” I said to myself on my way to the office, the park, the store. I couldn’t comprehend how San Franciscans lived before smartphones. “Are they wizards?” I wondered. (Spoiler: they’re probably not.)
Like many other daily routines, once transportation went mobile, most of us forgot how we did it before. This can be as troubling as it is exciting. Troubling because we wonder where technology is taking us and how it’s affecting our minds as it steadily becomes an extension of us. Exciting because you can do things faster, better, and while juggling several other things in a way that wasn’t possible just 10 years ago. It’s no mystery that big cities welcome new technology before the rest. Chaos begs creative solutions, and with “Internet of Things” becoming our new reality, we’re on the brink of technological advances unlike any in history.
Regardless of your opinions on the tech-ification of society, it’s already inescapable. Giants like Amazon and newer players like Withings are pioneering inventions that help you live smarter. By 2016, 19 billion “things” will be connected to the internet. You can buy in like me and the many other San Franciscans expressing gratitude to their apps each day, or you can take to the backstreets where there are no sensors (yet) detecting road weather conditions or monitoring traffic. Either way, here are some of the “things” that are already among us, and a few you can expect to see soon enough.
- Wearables that track and analyze your movement, heartbeat, and more
- Smart home technology that learns your behavior and adjusts to your preferences
- Automated lunchrooms at Fortune 500 companies that stock and serve without human help
- Bluetooth health meters that monitor patients’ vitals remotely
- Scales that analyze your BMI and the air quality in your home
- 3D printers that can print in chocolate, magnetic material, and who knows what else
On the Horizon
- Smart fridges & dishes that track expiration dates, build your shopping list, and monitor your diet
- Smart cars that will drive to you and park themselves (already here, just not yet legal)
- Smart cities where everything connects to everything, basically
Now and tomorrow, we prioritize connections. Connecting with your home, with your body, with your city in new ways. The Internet of Things isn’t just about the next invention you probably don’t need—it allows our environment to adapt to us so we can better engage, learn, and live within it. Apps are units of this progress, putting connections in our pockets and paving the way to a tomorrow where you never worry about the bus. There’s an app for that.