What is the Internet of Things? - Wired - 02/17
Internet of Things
What will be connected to the Internet of Things? You. Your child. Your car, clothes and house. The toaster, the bread, the honey, the bees and more. That's why some call it the 'Internet of Everything'.
By the year 2040, anything and everything that can be tagged with a wireless identifier will probably have one (or more). Tiny, wireless electronic devices that are attached to an object to connect it to the Internet of Things. Wireless indentifier may be too restricting of a name. By that time, these devices could do a lot more than just identify an object, they could relay data on size, shape and location or receive instructions on what to do next.
These devices might be powered by light, motion, radio waves, biopower or some other means. But they will not need to be plugged in or have batteries that need replacing. Bigger devices control the smaller ones, and they all talk together.
Access to all those things in your reach will be through your phone or your virtual personal assistant, like the Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
Here is what the Internet of Things might be like for someone waking up in the year 2040
This just covers the possible health benefits of the IoT. There was no room in the infographic to mention that his phone could open fibers in his nanopajamas if he gets too warm, or that his slippers can lead him to the loo at midnight. There will be many health related nodes in the 'Internet of Things', starting with wearables and then progressing to more intimate contact.
As I gladly leave this man's body and expand my view of connected devices, I see the lights powering on wherever he goes, and turning off when he leaves. A haptic display on the bathroom mirror shows the weather, news, and his itinerary. It informs him he missed a spot while brushing (his toothbrush tattled). The shower will automatically adjust to the perfect temperature. A cup of his favorite hot beverage is brewed at just the right time.
Here are some future IoT scenarios for society
Self-driving vehicles that communicate with each other, the road, pedestrians, lights and more
Smart traffic control
Remote vehicle control
Foods tracked for freshness and traceability
Appliances run at optimum times, let you know when they need maintenance
Monitoring air, water, soil conditions
Earthquake and tsunami early-warning systems
Monitoring structural conditions
Movements of wildlife
Dynamic response to product demands
Intelligent shopping systems
Smart heating and cooling systems
Is the Internet of Things all hype?
The Internet of Things is already a thing. Right now it is in its early stages. In the future, when wireless tracking devices become cheap enough to spread like seeds of knowledge, it will be a game changer. Some industries are developing it because it gives them what they want most. Information about you. Where you go. What you do.
There will likely be 'Minority Report' type advertising, electronic billboards in every tolerated location, that are personalized for you. Just like search engines and email services today, there will probably be a trade-off involved, where you get a service for free and in return the providers get to use your information to tailor ads for you.
What are some examples of IoT now?
A Smart City is a city where the goal is to link every device and service to an information network through wireless networking, RFID tags and sensors. Songdo, South Korea and Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City are examples.
Songdo International Business District - Credit Wikimedia Commons
IoT for the Home
There are a growing number of ways to connect your home to the Internet of Things. Wireless thermostats that you can control over the web. An electricity monitor that shows you the true cost of running your air conditioning. Power outlets, lamps and even the lightbulbs themselves are connecting wirelessly to the internet.
My favorite thing is a device that goes under the propane tank of my grill. Now my phone lets me know when I need a refill before I start cooking.
There is even a thing to replace your mother. Mother and the Motion Cookies are a family of smart sensors that are programmed to perform the functions you need. I'm pretty sure it works, I felt guilty just thinking about ordering it.
Soooo... we're good?
Not exactly. The Internet of Things could hit some bumps along the way. Tagging and tracking billions of things is a large and costly vision that needs to make fiscal sense along the way. At the same time, companies that make or connect to things need to be on the same page. Creating new standards can take years and sometimes involves battles, like VHS and Betamax or iPhone and Android devices.
Technical issues for the wireless tagging of objects include size, durability, increasing transmission distance and finding its precise location. Not to mention it is currently on an internet that is not exactly secure.
Privacy could be an issue. Who will be watching, who will have access to your information and how will they use it? Other concerns are surveillance, terrorism, inequality, identity theft, and encroachment on personal space.
Can we wrap this up? My blender is calling.
Sure thing! (It's like we are connected.) To summarize, the Internet of Things is the connection of everything that can be connected. It's growing and it brings great promise and legitimate peril.
I'm ready for that smoothie now.