IoT had a coming out party of sorts at the 2017 CES in Las Vegas. With hundreds of new products hitting the market from companies all over the globe, consumers are about to enter a brave new world. Experts agree that by 2026, IoT will be inescapable, as intertwined with our daily lives as the smartphone or the Internet itself.

As IoT technology becomes more complex and the amount of data it collects increases exponentially, the need presents itself for improved AI. Roboticists have turned to nature for inspiration and, in addition to machine learning, are working on AI that learns from and reacts to stimuli as diverse as the wind, sunlight, or the human hand.

But don't let the tech scare you. Almost every device can benefit from IoT. Integrating it is more about anticipating needs than it is about being at the cutting edge of technology. If you want to start a business, identify a need and apply IoT to it.

Brush smarter, not harder

The 21st century is in many ways a century of 'firsts.' Getting kids to brush their teeth can become their favorite game. Kolibree makes smart toothbrushes fitted with a host of gadgets and sensors that track your brushing habits. AI crunches the data and delivers a status report on your oral hygiene via their app.

This kind of AI is connected to the concept of "biofeedback." Biofeedback is when a device helps us to change a behavior (such as heart rate) for the better by giving us comprehensive data on the performance of that same behavior. By analyzing and reporting brushing habits users modify their habits to a positive end.

Hair-brained idea

Hot on the heels of the smart toothbrush is the smart hairbrush.

The Hair Coach absorbs every last byte of data it can get its bristles on. Unlike the smart toothbrush, it doesn't limit itself to tracking human behavior. Through a combination of numerous sensors and a microphone, it cobbles together a picture of your hair's health, as well as environmental factors, such as humidity, temperature and the wind. Everything is collected and displayed to the user on the corresponding app.

This particular product embodies another emerging trend in IoT - seamless, invisible integration of technology. Looking at it, you would have no idea it houses cutting-edge robotics. With the exception of an unassuming black circle in the center, it looks no different from your garden-variety 'unintelligent' hairbrush.

Made in the shade

Until recently, the IoT has been confined to the home and, to a lesser extent, the workplace. Trends are quickly changing, however, as the number of "things" connected to the Internet is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020.

A robotics company based in Los Angeles, ShadeCraft, is part of the evolving landscape. The company's first product, Sunflower, appears at first glance to be a streamlined, futuristic parasol. It's also another example of AI and biofeedback working together. Its sensors respond to sunlight, allowing its shade to follow the sun, keeping whomever is sitting under it nice and cool.

It detects and responds to wind speed, automatically closing its shade if the wind is blowing too fast. The app also informs the user of such threats to relaxation as poor air quality and high UV levels.

From a design perspective, it resembles its organic counterpart as well. Like the Hair Coach, its technology is hidden to the naked eye.

These products represent the future of AI in our daily lives. The devices of tomorrow will double as our personal assistants, personal trainers, even our cosmetologists.

So when you're looking to create the next big thing, don't. Create the next best version of the thing you already know there is a market for.

Published on: Sep 21, 2017