Odds are you’ve heard the term “Internet of Things” or its acronym “IoT” thrown around a time or two. But what exactly does it mean? The term may seem vague and confusing, but most people already interact with the Internet of Things on a daily basis. According to Analyst Gartner, 8.4 billion IoT devices were in use in 2017. In fact, you probably have an IoT operating system on your counter at home.

When you use your Amazon Alexa or Google Home to dim the lights or turn up the volume on your TV, you’re controlling part of the IoT. In a nutshell, the Internet of Things refers to the wide variety of physical devices that are connected to the internet and constantly collecting and sharing data.

So what’s the big deal?

The Internet of Things can do more than just transform your home in to a smart house. When used on a large scale, it can help automate and connect major business functions like manufacturing and shipping. The IoT can even be implemented across entire cities. When devices and processes are connected to the IoT on such a major scale, there is a great deal of rich data available. With this data, decision makers can easily identify trends and problems, and work to create solutions.

And the Internet of Things isn’t just a dream for the future. Companies and cities are using it right now to make major changes.

In Songdo, Korea the IoT has resulted in the complete elimination of manual garbage collection. Citizens use smart tags to identify different types of trash which are then dropped into an automated pneumatic garbage disposal system. The system reads the tags, sorts the trash, and then carries it away to be recycled or burnt as fuel as appropriate.

Cities across the US have implemented ShotSpotter, an initiative that uses a high-tech gunshot detection system to alert authorities where and when a gun is fired. This data not only allows for a faster response from emergency personnel but also provides valuable data. In New York City the program has strengthened the relationships between cops and the community and in Chicago, ShotSpotter has helped reduce shootings by 40%.

At the Harley Davidson factory in York, Pennsylvania, IoT is ingrained in every step of production. Sensors measure and manage the performance of manufacturing machines, identifying and fixing issues before they escalate. In the paint booth, heat and humidity are monitored by software that adjusts the speed of the fans to keep the environment in the right range. IoT implementation gives workers live data from the manufacturing process and allows employees to make decisions backed by data. Through this technology Harley Davidson has increased net margin by 19%.

Spaceti’s app brings the IoT into the workplace. The app monitors and collects data on spaces, making finding and reserving rooms easier than ever. This solution eliminates the need to scroll through multiple room calendars or run around your space trying to find a meeting room. Learn more about Spaceti here.

So don’t expect to wait until the Year 3000. The Internet of Things is already here. And it’s doing more than just remind you to pick up eggs from the grocery store.