The Internet of Things (IoT) will soon be called the Internet of Everything (IoE). By the year 2020, it is predicted that more than 50 billion connected devices will be on the Internet. If Facebook has its wish of connecting the other two-thirds of the world, this number could be predictably higher.
Internet of Things, a term coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton while working at P&G, is a network of physical objects that are connected to the internet. These objects such as sensors, smartphones, watches and electronics will transmit data via "The Internet" to the cloud providing a "smarter" service or experience for the user. This is what we mean by "smart technology."
We do not have to wait until 2020 to experience the smart home, the smart car, or go to work at a smart office, as those technologies already in the market or in development. But how soon before our children or we attend a smart school? How will the Internet of Things eventually impact education in the USA?
In 2014, U.S. based education technology (EdTech) companies raised $1.2 billion in funding across 357 venture rounds. To put this in perspective, total venture funding in 2014 was $48.3 billion. This means we are investing less than 3 percent into education related technology. It is quite possible, from a VC's perspective, the reason they don't invest in more EdTech opportunities is because there are fewer exits in this space. LinkedIn's $1.5 billion acquisition of tutorial and training site Lynda and textbook startup Chegg's IPO's in 2013, trading 40 percent below its IPO price, are the exceptions, not the rule in EdTech.
This means in all likelihood, for the education system in the USA to make the leap to a connected school, school districts and state education agencies will need to drive the digital strategy and appropriately budget and allocate funding to create these products and related "smart schools."
Smart technology will impact education in the following two ways:
- Students will learn faster.
I am a notetaker. I highlight, make margin notes, and like to create notecards. This is an inefficient process, but it was how I was taught to study. By using digital highlighters such as Scanmarker's Air, it could have shortened the process. This digital highlighter wirelessly transfers printed text into an application or web browser -- it is 30 times faster than if I were to write by hand. This tool does not only apply to education; but it can also be used by lawyers, researchers, and avid readers who still like to take notes (that's me!)
- Teachers will be able to do their job more efficiently.
Teachers work hard. Sure they get the summers off but they can put in 12 to 14 hour days during the school year. How can we help them do their job more efficiently? From designing the curriculum, to teaching, to grading papers and communicating with parents -- technology will help -- but only if it is made available to them. For the most part, it is still cost prohibitive but in the next five years, this will be an inevitable expense.
Digital content means easier sharing and more collaboration amongst teachers. They can build on each other's knowledge. It also means teachers can move through the material more quickly because they are not wasting time writing letter by letter on a chalkboard or whiteboard. It also means he or she can share lecture notes with students with very little effort. An innovator in this space is SMART, which created the world's first interactive whiteboard in 1991. Like the digital highlighter, SMART seems to be targeting both businesses and education. I looked online for resellers, and the cost for a SMART Board can range from $2,000 to $5,000 -- but I also found additional value in their knowledge exchange market, an app store for SMART Boards, which they are building for both education and collaboration. A more affordable option for education is IPEVO's wireless interactive board available for $169. IPEVO claims to have 46 percent market share in K-12 schools across the USA. Even dry-erase whiteboard paint maker, Ideapaint, joined the digital era by creating an app called Bounce -- which aims to bridge the offline and online user experience.
Companies like SMART and Scanmarker are "smartly" marketing to both education and business customers. IBM announced last month that will be investing $3 billion into IoT and education over the next four years. Lower cost entrants, like IPEVO, are making it easier for teachers to turn their classroom into a smart classroom. If you are a teacher or school district who wants to learn more about how to make your classroom more connected, the Department of Education has an Office of Education Technology guide on funding digital technology. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of what the future of education will look like -- you as might as well get ready for it.