Pretty soon you’d rather be seen dead than with a waffle iron that doesn’t have its own email account… When I read this line from a recent eConsultancy post on the Internet of Things (IOT) written by Ben Davis, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. After taking a moment to reflect on the seeming absurdity of the statement, I quickly realized his words pithily encapsulate the gravity of the paradigm shift we’re about to go through with the Internet of Things, an uber-tech trend carrying deep implications for individuals and businesses alike.
On a commercial level, the world of connected devices represents a boon for companies far and wide. Marketers, if you think Web 2.0 technologies are making your life complicated, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Get ready for the prospect of having to create personalized web and social interactions not only for each segment of your target audience, but also for their bevy of smart devices. Such is but one small implication of the emerging world of IOT.
What is the Internet of Things, anyway? This definition from WhatIs.com sums up the idea nicely: IOT is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to automatically transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
IOT is world where virtually every thing (humans included) is imbued with one or more tiny computers or smart sensors, all transmitting a flow of data onto the Internet (thus, the Internet of Things).
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In the Internet of Things, any natural or human-made object that can be assigned an IP address and given the ability to transmit data via a network is eligible- your tires, coffee maker, liver, underwear- you name it. So far, the Internet of Things has been confined to Machine to Machine (M2M) communications in larger industries such as manufacturing and utilities.
That’s only the beginning.
Get ready for terms like “active digital identity” and “digital identity management” to hit the mainstream in the coming months as companies such as Evrything bring IOT mainstream.
If you’re still not clear on the whole IOT concept, here’s a great video intro from IOT startup Evrything with the snappy title, “All you need to know about EVRYTHNG in 77 seconds:”
There you have it. With billions of devices constantly streaming data onto the Internet, it looks like Big Data is about to get a whole lot bigger.
Companies like Evrything plan on using this surfeit of sensor data from the objects around us to provide value to both consumers and businesses.
For example, imagine you just purchased a shiny, new internet-connected bicycle. With the help of an IOT software provider like Evrything (the company has actually trademarked the term, “Web of Things”), you’ll be able to create a virtual avatar of your bike which will live in your social event streams. Your virtual bike would be dynamic, connected to whatever is going on with your bike in the real world; it might display the miles you travel or the route you take (or in my case, the number of dust-bunnies collecting on the bike).
Here’s the exciting part for brands. By creating a digital persona, the company that sold you the bike will be able to send you personalized content, apps, and services designed specifically for you and your bike. The presumption is that information about your bike would get ever more detailed and personalized over time, giving you a living, breathing history of your bike (and that business and others a ton of data about you for future use).
This of course would have various implications for any eventual sale of said bike, as prospective buyers could peruse its entire “social” history. Never mind turning that mileage counter back…
In this way, we may one day have a social graph for nearly every object on the planet- here, here!
In a 2011 interview with eConsultancy, Andy Hobsbawm, co-founder of Evrything, boiled down the value add of his company thusly:
Evrythng is a new service that creates active digital identities for products and other objects… Evrythng helps organise the world’s objects with an active digital identity for every thing.
Presumably, wearable tech is a part of that every thing. From Google Glass and Nike Fuel Band to smart diapers and talking dogs, wearable tech encompasses pretty much any smart, connected device you can wear. For example, Mashable recently featured a story about a new smart tooth sensor that knows when you’ve been eating or talking too much. Researchers at National Taiwan University in Taipei apparently have designed a tooth-sized “wearable oral sensory system” that can recognize when you’re chewing, drinking, speaking and coughing. They’re getting decent results, too – the researchers’ data shows the system was accurate 93.8% of the time.
My wife would have a field day with this one.
Rage Against the Human
Call me paranoid, but my mind always tends to wander to the possible negative implications of any new technology. What could go wrong with a world of internet connected social devices?
Plenty. What if my IOT/wearable tech turns against me a la Maximum Overdrive? Think of the havoc a few surly lawn and garden implements could wreak on my well-manicured lawn. On a business level, think of the damage a rogue, socially connected IOT device could do to my online rep if it chose to (note to self: remove all online sensors from the liquor cabinet). What if all of these devices worked together to play a prank on me? I can only imagine everything in my now fully connected world instantly disconnected- no phone, no car, no waffle iron. Shudder the thought…
On a more serious note, the prospects of a world of IOT/wearable tech would surely be a hacker’s dream come true. Questions over the untimely death of “ethical” hacker Barnaby Jack, who was set to give a speech on the dangers of human hacking just before his mysterious death, have recently brought this issue to the fore.
It seems that in pursuing IOT, we humans have collectively resolved to crack open the Pandora’s Box that is Artificial Intelligence (AI) by degrees, incrementally rationalizing our irrevocable action by breathing awareness into the random assortment of dumb objects around us.
Rationalization is, after all, the key to mental health.
So is a smart waffle iron.