The Internet of Things–some (very) random thoughts on future of internet
All the talk about wearable gadgets as the next big thing got me thinking again about the Internet of Things.
The Internet of things is not a new concept. I remember listening to an academic at an NCR conference (yes ATM’s) circa 1997 speaking about a future when everything has a chip and IP address that will identify itself over the internet. The best and most easily understandable set of examples provided were food. Your milk carton would tell the screen on the fridge that it is about to reach its maturity date and automatically add to your shopping list. This example worked because fridges with computer screens were generally accepted as the future of PC’s.
Where this fell down and resulted in glazed expressions lay in the PC based reality, very few laptops except at banks and consulting companies that I was fortunate enough to be part of. Then layer on the fact that less than 5% of the population were even online and its understandable that the concept that would eventually be coined in the phrase in 2011 as “the Internet of Things” (IoT) lay dormant in the eyes of the general population.
Also the fridge PC is interesting because it truly shows how wrong we can be when it comes to predicting the future we are really bad at it. It’s a great example that extrapolation of historic trends is a terrible way to predict. The future comes lateral steps that are unexpected and anything but extrapolations.
According to the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), IoT (the Internet of Things) is simply the point in time when more “things or objects” were connected to the Internet than people.
Fast forward to 2013 via 2007 and the introduction of smartphones we now have location aware, miniature PC’s in our pockets. Then throw in the advent of cloud computing which amongst other things facilitate syncing of data across devices and now The Internet of Things starts to make sense. We don’t need the fridge PC.
The Cisco paper from 2011 forsaw the advent of wearable gadgets, but to me that is simply an extension of mobile. The real Internet of Things will see equivalent of wearable gadgets on currently inanimate objects such as your milk carton. You should be able to automatically monitor what you wish from your application and device of choice.
That vision is not very clearly laid out yet as far as I can tell. I found this picture which has potential on the interestingly named but hopelessly vague website called the Internet of Things run by the EU.
A bit more searching turned up this on Wikipedia supported by much better lateral thinking about where this could go. Its typical Wikipedia and a bit all over the place but some germs of ideas in there.
The Wikipedia entry refers to Songdo, a new city in Korea designed to be virtual. It is mainly about recycling and reclamation, but also about being wired.
Nearly everything in this digital metropolis of smart homes is planned to be wired, connected and turned into a constant stream of data that would be monitored and analyzed by an array of computers with little, or no human intervention. Thus, Internet of Things, or embedded intelligence in things, with "smart systems that are able to take over complex human perceptive and cognitive functions and frequently act unnoticeably in the background" is a close reality.
But city design is just one aspect. There is still the darned milk carton and everything else in your fridge, then your car, and your office as well as your home.
This entire concept just gets so large as to be unimaginable again. So maybe the wearable objects thing is a logical step along the way towards the real full Internet of Things and as we watch for the next big thing.