The Internet of Things
As 4G networks spread, get ready to see and hear this phrase, "The Internet of Things," over and over again. It basically refers to the idea of everyone and everything (from milk cartons to cows) having embedded chips that identify and connect them to the Internet.
The applications of this kind of data are endless. Your alarm clock, for instance, could become a more intelligent and useful device. Connected to the Internet, it knows when the roads are icy and that you'll need extra time to make the commute, so it wakes you up earlier. It also starts your car to make sure the windows are ice-free in time for your departure. You can see a whole range of other possibilities in this Cisco infographic.
The Internet of Things is also sometimes called machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. Like your fancy alarm clock, it enables all sorts of automated technological tricks. Your prescription bottle knows it's almost empty, so it calls in refills without your help. You could track down stolen items -- anything, really -- no matter where a thief takes your stuff. Health tags can monitor your vital signs and send critical information straight to your nurse for evaluation.
But with everything from cows to milk emitting data at all times, networks will need to accommodate a ceaseless flow of wireless traffic. 3G networks won't be able to handle the burden, but the increased capacity of 4G can.