The Internet has revolutionized the way we live, communicate, and do business. There’s almost no company out there anymore that doesn’t rely on the world wide web in some sort of capacity.
In addition to that, mainly thanks to mobile devices, the online world has permeated our entire lives. Now we can get on the Internet pretty much anywhere and at any time. And now with the Internet of Things (IoT) this connection will become even stronger.
The Internet of Things describes the growing number of devices that have online connections. You might not be aware of it but Internet access is no longer limited to phones, tablets, and computers. Increasingly, everyday things like washing machines, lamps, and coffee makers also come with the ability to get on the web.
As one of the main players online, this also has consequences for WordPress. Just as we optimize our websites for mobile devices today, in the future we might have to consider how to connect WordPress and the Internet of Things. For that reason, in this article, we want to talk a bit more about this topic.
We will learn what exactly the Internet of Things is and what it means for the world. After that, we will shine a light on current possibilities to connect it with WordPress and end with a look to the future and how the IoT and WordPress will mix further down the road.
Sounds interesting? Then ready your time machine and let’s get going.
What is The Internet of Things?
Before going any further, let’s first define what we mean by the Internet of Things.
Everything is Online
As already mentioned in the introduction, the Internet of Things means literally connecting things to the World Wide Web to make them remotely accessible.
Right now, the Internet of Things is mostly made up of mobile devices such as phones, tablets, or computers. You know, things we use to access the online world.
However, in the future, it can mean anything: home appliances, parts of industrial machines, heavy machinery like planes but also wearables that people carry on their body.
Through Internet connections, we will be able to talk to and control them. Working examples already exist today, like this intelligent light bulb that you can control via mobile phone.
Pretty cool, right? But that’s just the beginning.
In the future, the interaction between things will get even more complex as devices will not only start talking to each other but also get more autonomous.
For example, imagine an alarm clock that talks to your coffee maker so you walk into the kitchen to a fresh brew. Or a fridge that will automatically order the food items you are running low on.
Further down the road, we will likely see microchips that measure patient health and send the information automatically to their physician.
In the Netherlands, they already have cows equipped with devices that send text messages when they are in heat and other information. Each of these cows produces 200MB of data per year.
In the end, anything that can be connected will be connected, leading to lots of applications that we can’t even imagine yet.
A Huge New Industry
The consequences of this development for the world at large are staggering:
- A typical family of four is expected to have 50 connected devices in 2022, double the number of 2017
- By the same year, 30 billion such devices are to expected to exist
- As a consequence, the Internet of Things will become a trillion-dollar industry
Seeing numbers like that, it’s no surprise that in 2013 Cisco launched an entire division dedicated to the Internet of Things.
As we can expect, this new technology will revolutionize many industries and life in general. Not only will we live in a smarter environment where things communicate with each other, the Internet of things will increase efficiency and effectiveness in every area of life as well as boost productivity and innovation.
What About the Risks?
However, not everything that glitters is gold. As many possibilities as the IoT offers, there are a lot of kinks are yet to be ironed out.
The biggest concern with such large amounts of shared data is surely security. More connections open up a lot more access points to a company and private infrastructure.
For example, a while ago one of the available smart fridges was hacked and turned into a spam email machine. There have also been cases involving baby monitors turned into listening devices. And don’t even get me started on the possibility of someone hacking an insulin pump or pacemaker.
So, security is definitely something that needs to be addressed. However, as you can see above, the technology is here to stay and the Internet of Things is well on its way.
Yet, since this technology is dependent on the online world, it’s only a matter of time before IoT crosses paths with WordPress. In fact, combining the Internet of Things and WordPress is already possible today. Let’s take a look at that next.
The Current State of the Internet of Things and WordPress
Alright, now that we know more about what IoT is, let’s talk about how it can interact with WordPress. We already have working examples, so let’s look at some use case ideas and then ways to put them into practice.
IoT Use Cases for WordPress Users
Here are some ideas of connection WordPress and real-world things:
- A bell that goes off whenever there’s a new comment, sale, or plugin update on your site
- An IoT lamp that lights up when you receive or answer a new ticket
- Push notifications if the site is down or there’s another security problem
- A physical hit counter that shows the number of people coming to your site or other metrics
Of course, these are relatively simple. As time progresses, we will be able to take on more complex scenarios. However, the stuff above is already possible today with the tools that we will talk about now.
We have written about this service and how to make it work with WordPress before. Its premise is simple: create recipes to connect different web services in a simple “if X happens, do Y” manner.
For example, IFTTT lets you share your latest WordPress posts with a specific tag to Linkedin, automatically post Instagram pictures on your blog or log all blog posts in a calendar or spreadsheet.
The service is very easy to use even for people who can’t program as almost everything can be done by mouse click.
How’s that relevant to WordPress and the Internet of Things? Well, by now IFTTT also offers a number of real-life devices as channels.
As you can see from the screenshot, this includes appliances from several manufacturers like washers, dryers and coffee machines. However, also wearables like Fitbit that let you import health data into your blog are available.
Yet, that’s not all. IFTTT also introduced the Maker channel that lets you connect with any custom hardware able to accept web requests. If this isn’t predestined to connect your real-life devices to WordPress, I don’t know what is.
Talking about IoT devices: when thinking about designing your own, this service is particularly interesting. littleBits is a manufacturer of building blocks for electronics that was also mentioned in RC Lations’ IoT talk at WordCamp Maine.
The parts are color coded, magnetic, reusable and snap together to create prototypes without soldering. In addition to that, they are specifically made to connect via the web through their own API or IFTTT. There is also a WordPress plugin.
Formerly known as Spark, Particle is a platform for connecting IoT devices to the web. They offer all the necessary software from device management tools, the ability to connect via wifi or cellular network, development IDEs, a command line interface as well as SDKs.
Besides that, you can also purchase hardware development kits for creating cloud-connected prototypes that run on their own REST API in the background.
Here, we have a plugin by Roy Tanck inspired by Peter Martin’s talk on WordPress and IoT. He has ported the existing MQTT machine to machine connectivity protocol for WordPress. It enables you to send messages upon events with subjects and text that can hook into WordPress hooks.
The plugin makes it possible to connect WordPress events with IoT devices via an easy interface. However, it also allows to you set up custom events to do pretty much anything you can imagine. You can find the plugin in the WordPress directory.
Finally, we have two more examples of early concepts to connect WordPress and the Internet of Things. The first one is Nike+.
It’s a discontinued plugin for displaying running data from Nike’s gadgets on your site including widgets and shortcodes. The plugin enabled runners to automatically share their training and competition times and for both individuals as well as teams.
The second examples is wpforglass, which was one of the earliest integrations of the IoT and WordPress. We actually talked about it here on Torque when the plugin came out. It allowed webmasters to post videos and pictures to their site directly from their Google Glass device.
Not sure if it’s up to date but you can still find the plugin on Github.
WP REST API – The Future of WordPress and The Internet of Things?
With the solutions above it’s already possible to connect WordPress to the Internet of Things today. However, in the future, we will likely the use of a solution that has only been recently merged into WordPress: the WP REST API.
It’s coming at an opportune time. The future of the Internet of Things will depend on clear communication protocols to connect the web with devices. Powerful, open APIs seem like the road to go.
Since the WP REST API was specifically made to integrate WordPress with external services, it is the perfect vehicle to connect the platform with the Internet of Things.
The REST API offers established routes to communicate with WordPress and the other way around. In contrast to tools like IFTTT, you also get access to all of WordPress, not just a few chosen functions. Once it gets a little more mileage, I’m pretty optimistic we will see it as the gateway for the IoT.
To learn more about the WP REST API, don’t miss our articles on that topic.
The Internet of Things is coming and fast. It is the next wave of technological innovation that will revolutionize how we interact with the Internet and make the bond between the virtual domain and physical reality even closer.
Naturally, as a majority shareholder on the web WordPress will likely play a role in this. We already have ways to connect WordPress to the IoT today, mostly through plugins and third-party services. However, in the future, the WP REST API will likely provide more direct ways to connect WordPress to external devices.
By the way, if you want to learn more about how we got to this point and the technological advancements that made the Internet of Things possible check out this excellent IoT history.
Are you excited about the Internet of Things? What use cases in connection with WordPress are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below!