THE BLOG

Six Ways Sensors Will Improve Modern Life

14/08/2014 14:49 BST | Updated 12/10/2014 10:59 BST

The next 20 years of technology will make the achievements of the last two decades pale in comparison. That's no mean feat given how much technology has advanced in recent years and how much these changes have come to shape our lives.

Some of the ideas which are on the cusp of becoming reality are amazing. They will genuinely change the way we live, work and interact with our environment.

Among them are plans to connect all devices into one system and share information in ways we have never seen before. The Internet of Things, as it's called, will connect almost all our appliances and gadgets to make life easier and more efficient.

At the core of making much of this technology work will be sensors. Not many people realise they are a crucial part of making the majority of modern technology function. That's only going to become truer as many more tasks become automated and more devices need to speak to one another.

The Internet of Things is just one example of sensors revolutionising the world. Here are a further six ways in which they will affect all of our daily lives for the better:

Nothing to sneeze at - If you have hay fever, sensors will make it possible for you to avoid suffering its symptoms. Cities will soon be in a position to crowdsource data from sensors and mobile devices and that data can be used to inform people of environmental issues in particular areas, whether that's especially high concentrations of smog, chemicals, pollen or any other type of particle. That has obvious health benefits to the wider public.

More city farms - City farms are a great day out, but soon they will be used to grow a significant proportion of our food as well. Countries like Singapore are investing heavily in urban farms to combat increased urbanisation and its impact on our food supply. High rise buildings are purposely-built to house multiple layers of plants which are fed, lit and watered automatically. Sensors, attached to drones, are used to determine exactly which areas of these farms require more food, nutrients or fertilizer. That's great news for production, management and efficiency in agriculture.

No more relying on traffic bulletins - Getting around can be difficult, but advances in technology will make it much easier regardless of how you choose to travel. Sensors will be one of the fundamental components of driverless cars and will also tell you when your vehicle needs to be repaired. They will also render the radio traffic bulletin obsolete by providing you with real-time traffic updates through your mobile devices or built-in satellite navigations systems. If you don't own a car, they will be used to tell you how best to use public transport. Using live data, they can tell us what transport to take, exactly how much it will cost and how long the journey is likely to last.

Keeping you in your own home - Sensors could be a major contributing factor to keeping elderly people in their own homes for longer. Motion sensors, which capture trends in movement, shapes, heat and much more, will be able to detect when someone is having a problem in their house. If someone has left a chip pan on, the sensor will detect when the person who put it on is in another room and sound an alarm. If that person doesn't react, the sensor will be able to tell and turn off the hob. That kind of technology will help to avert tragedies and alleviate some of the pressure that is currently placed on care homes as more people live longer.

What a load of rubbish - Well, not anymore. After there's been a high concentration of people in a particular area for a festival, party or any large gathering of people, public bins can end up overflowing with rubbish. Introducing sensors will allow their capacity to be monitored and local authorities will know which bins need emptied and when. That has obvious health and sanitation benefits to local communities and the public at large. On top of that, it never looks particularly good to see rubbish spilling out into the streets.

Only the offers you want - Wearable technology is fast becoming popular. Just look at the fuss over Google Glass. The next generation of sensors will be crucial to advancing this technology, building on existing GPS systems to incorporate all sorts of data. You could be walking through a shopping centre and, through Wi-Fi networks, shops can interact with your gadgets and present offers that are relevant to your lifestyle. That will be based on your purchase history, items you have searched for, or any other information you have shared with your devices.