As we continue to hear about the Internet of Things, it might behoove us to consider what the implications of this revolution will be. We can assume that it will yield tremendous business opportunities for well-positioned companies, but how will it affect your average Joe?
For off, what is the Internet of Things? Essentially, it’s a vision of the world in which most or all physical objects are connected to the Internet, whether by RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, ambient intelligence (devices, which are to a large extent, aware of and responsive to people), or sensors powered by real time artificial intelligence. These terms may sound outlandish, but so did flying before the Wright brothers. The data is in and the trends are there: by 2014, you can expect there to be 400 million wireless sensors that people or objects can wear that will accumulate and analyze data . By 2020, anywhere from 24 to 100 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. Interfaces will be ubiquitous, embedded into most of the objects around us.
This kind of interconnectivity will make for the biggest information system the world’s ever seen, built like a digitized white pages directory, a seamless integration of goods and services within a globally networked system. Cloud computing has created the infrastructure that can support such a global scale-up, which can be expected to affect everything from retail and manufacturing to efforts to mitigate poverty and global warming. Large scale planetary effects of this kind of technological advancement will begin as market phenomena, and then trickle into every nook and cranny of society.
What can the average person then expect? Smart machines? AI-powered search engines? Voice activated game consoles? Well, we already have those things. The Internet of Things will make our things smarter and better connected. Your smartphone will be table to tell your Tivo to record Boardwalk Empire; your iPod can tell you if there is a traffic delay on the freeway; crops can tell their farmers if they’re ready to be tilled; the peach you’re about to eat can tell you how juicy it is. The list goes on and on.
But with great promise comes great peril. Industries will have to make sure that the Internet of Things doesn’t comprise our online security or hemorrhage energy demands. Moreover, we as people will have to make sure we don’t become overly dependent on objects in order to evaluate the world. Using smart things shouldn’t make users less smart. An online world must still be viewed as a utility to help us improve the offline world.