Smartwatches that let you track both your physical health and inbox. Connected fridges that keep track of the food they contain. Voice-activated televisions that learn your viewing preferences. Self-driving cars.
It all sounds like something out of the realm of science fiction – but it’s not. It’s the Internet of Things, and it’s inevitable.
In the interest of making our lives easier and our jobs more efficient, we’re connecting more and more devices to the Internet with each passing day. Traditionally ‘dumb’ pieces of technology like coffee machines and climate control systems are now being equipped with embedded sensors to help monitor, manage, and enhance how they’re used. And that’ll have more of an impact on the web hosting space than you might expect.
“Imagine that your refrigerator is outfitted with sensors that can tell what items are running low or about to expire,” reads a post on the Smash-Stack blog. “Instead of merely texting you, it checks your online meal plan, puts together a shopping list, and orders everything from the grocery store, which employs and Internet-connected autonomous delivery vehicle [to] bring your groceries right to your door.”
Websites – especially eCommerce sites – are going to need to account for a massive upswing in traffic from connected devices. I expect that it will be similar to when smartphones and tablets first hit the market, albeit on a far more massive scale.
Not only will these devices require immensely more bandwidth, they’re also going to necessitate a different type of web design, as well. According to the PixelFish blog, this will manifest in a few ways:
- Increasingly sophisticated relationships with visitor data. First, websites will need to accommodate things like automated orders from a smart fridge and access requests from wearable technology. Part of this will be the ability to analyze and address new types of user data – for example, a smart fridge might ping a store to order more of a particular type of product, or a pair of smart glasses might request information on the location or menu of a restaurant.
- Accommodation of new types of traffic. In addition to new types of interaction, website metrics will need to be adjusted to account for traffic from IoT devices. These devices will interact with websites in a way that is distinct from users on desktop or mobile, and will need to be treated differently as a result.
- New user interfaces. Finally, IoT devices will have wildly different design requirements from smartphones, tablets, and PCs. They’ll require that different information be displayed, and that things be laid out in a completely different way. This will, in broad terms, require websites to adapt themselves based on the device that’s requesting access – responsive design, but with a much greater scope.
So how does the cloud slot into all this? How can cloud computing help web designers and webmasters adapt to the coming influx of connected devices? In a few ways, actually:
- Cloud-scalable bandwidth. In order to account for the massive upturn in traffic, sites can implement a cloud solution to dynamically scale bandwidth up and down. As more devices make access requests, a site can seamlessly bring more computing resources online, spinning them down once they’re no longer required.
- Cloud analytics software. The improved processing power offered by a cloud analytics solution allows a site to more accurately analyze and respond to an access request by an IoT device, and to examine the data generated by that device after the fact.
Make no mistake: the Internet of Things is going to change more than just web design. And being aware of the ways it might change things is the first step in preparing oneself to adapt.