You know about the internet.
You know about “things.”
But do you know about the “Internet of Things?” If you have ever asked Alexa to play a song, you’ve used it. At its most basic, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnectivity between smart devices.
Anything that can use or access the internet can become part of the IoT. And by “things” I mean a lightbulb, truck, microwave, washing machine… things that you might not normally think use the internet, but with growing technological innovation, could. As Forbes has reported, with broadband internet becoming more widely available, the cost of connecting to it decreasing, more devices being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, smartphone penetration skyrocketing, a “perfect storm” for the IoT is taking shape. Essentially, anything with an “on” and “off” switch could become part of the IoT.
As an article on iCoolKid.com noted:
What makes this phenomena so interesting is that these objects could theoretically communicate between one another without the need for human interaction or input. Devices that operate simultaneously and share information are able to send back very specific information to applications or manufacturers, allowing companies to rapidly evolve their products and approaches to tech with increased ease.
The world around us is more responsive as a result of the Internet of Things—and it’s only set to become steadily more so as we move into the ’20s.
This is already in play. Think of something like home heating/cooling. In an IoT system, a sensor gathers information on the temperature of the home. That data is sent to the cloud. Once there, it is processed and evaluated to make sure that, say, the home temperature is within an acceptable range. Then, either the homeowner is notified that the temperature needs adjusting (which they could do using their smartphone), or the IoT system could simply auto-adjust it.
My own home security system allows me, wherever I am in the world, to hear our home’s doorbell, see who is at the door through a camera, have a conversation with whomever is there, and even unlock the door for them if need be.
All through my smartphone.
Currently, even the youngest of generations (Generation Z) tends to use the IoT for little more than social media, music and personal communication. This will change. Generation Z will have grown up in a world of smart objects, which will shape not only their thinking, but also their experiential expectations. For them, things can and should communicate with each other.
And the change will come fast. According to Business Insider, the United States is expected to surpass 1 billion smarthome devices by 2023. “Gen Z will be the ones to adopt these technologies and implement them into real, daily life throughout this decade, and thanks to a generational understanding of smart products, this may all come to fruition quicker than you expect.”
Putting the obvious privacy and security concerns aside that will need to be addressed (none of us want our refrigerator spying on us), the implications for the church and its mission will need to process what will arguably affect the nature of our near-future world.
We will need to capitalize on whatever information we can gain from potential IoT feedback and use it to sharpen our missional effectiveness.
We will need to think through people’s experience when interacting with us in terms of their growing expectation of things communicating with each other.
We will need to wrap our thinking around two new relationships. Currently we only think in terms of “people-to-people.” We will have to learn to broaden that out to “people-to-things” and yes, “things-to-things.”
We will need to think through how a church’s physical campus can become part of a “smart city.”
And most of all, we will need to think through what it will mean as the world increasingly explores spiritual things,
… by asking Alexa.
James Emery White
“How Gen Z Could Shape the ‘Internet of Things,’” iCoolKid.com, read online.
Jacob Morgan, “A Simple Explanation of ‘The Internet of Things,’” Forbes, May 13, 2014, read online.
Calum McClelland, “IoT Explained – How Does an IoT System Actually Work?” Leverege, October 29, 2016, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.