Does IoT truly make us more productive?

a man waking up from bed and turning over to check his phone on his bedside table
Millennial African American man wearing glasses, half asleep in bed holding smartphone, close up

The promise of how the Internet of Things (IoT) can help us be more productive is totally true. But in reality, are we actually using that saved time wisely?

IoT and intelligent automation are supposed to make our lives easier through greater efficiencies and the elimination or simplification of mundane or traditionally time-consuming tasks. If we don’t have to worry about watering the grass or manually keeping track of daily appointments, and can multitask using voice assistants and automated devices, we save precious minutes that add up over time. Yet ironically, we often choose to use those minutes to interact with more technology, and not necessarily for the purposes of being more productive.

In a PCMag study about technology addiction, 64 percent of respondents said they sometimes or often feel they’re using their smartphones too much, and 66 percent even sleep with it within reach. The average adult consumes five-times more information every day than they did 50 years ago, and we spend as much as half of every day in front of a screen. An Inc.com study found that business leaders waste 3.9 hours per week on “escapist mental health breaks,” which include activities like streaming YouTube videos and checking social media.

How IoT encourages productivity

a robotic vacuum cleaner on a laminate wood floor

First, let’s look at how IoT technology can make us more productive in our personal lives. 

Virtually any device you’d interact with in the home is already, or soon will be, made smart; from lights to the thermostat, small and large appliances, televisions, speakers, and more. And since many devices can be voice-controlled, that actually takes you away from screens. 

Wake up and ask Alexa, Google, or Siri to recite the current stock prices, advise on the weather and traffic reports, list the day’s appointments, and brew a cup of coffee. When you’re ready to go, their machine-learning algorithm selects the best, most efficient route to work, turns off the lights and air conditioning until just before 6 p.m. (because it knows that’s when you usually get home), and boots up the security system. At the end of the day, the nightly news headlines are read aloud while you make dinner, and the intelligent AI recommends a good recipe based on what’s in your ‘fridge so you don’t have to decide or go shopping. 

The always-on, always-connected nature of technology also means we can get things done virtually anywhere, at any time.

It’s easy to see how, on an average day, this sequence of automated tasks can leave more time to do productive things. Voice-enabled devices are almost universally lauded for being useful when multitasking and for getting instant answers to questions. 

The always-on, always-connected nature of technology also means we can get things done virtually anywhere, at any time. You can fire off a few emails from the train on your way home and finish off reports over lunch using your smartphone. Maybe you watch that 30-minute seminar on your tablet while on the treadmill so you can leave the office an hour early.

Using saved time to finish more important tasks at work and home during the week can leave weekends free to spend with the family. You might even be more willing (and able) to take that family vacation you’ve been putting off, knowing that you can remotely stay on top of things through smart devices like connected security cameras and smartphones. 

How to better balance the benefits of IoT

three woman wading in shallow sea water at a beach

Yet it seems we’re filling our saved time with more technology consumption. The average American checks their phone 47 times a day

If we save 20 minutes a day thanks to automated tasks but spend after dinnertime with our faces buried in our phones doing mindless things, we’re not taking full advantage of the benefits of IoT to be truly productive. For example, in 2019, the global average of time spent on social media was 2 hours and 23 minutes a day. 

Do you spend your downtime watching television? Playing mindless games on your smartphone? Scrolling through an endless social media feed? It’s easy to be consumed by such activities as the time rolls by more quickly than you realize. And while there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little “me” time every now and then for doing, well, nothing of any substance, it’s food for thought the next time you ask Alexa to run the robot vacuum then jump on the couch to play Candy Crush as it’s rolling away.

The benefits of IoT are tremendous, but what we fill that extra time with is equally as important to ensure we make the most out of what IoT has to offer. Finding a good balance between understanding how and when to use IoT and what to do with the time it saves is key to fully appreciating automation, AI, and our new world of 24/7 connectivity; and in becoming more productive in our business and personal lives.

About Futurithmic

It is our mission to explore the implications of emerging technologies, seeking answers to next-level questions about how they will affect society, business, politics and the environment of tomorrow.

We aim to inform and inspire through thoughtful research, responsible reporting, and clear, unbiased writing, and to create a platform for a diverse group of innovators to bring multiple perspectives.

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