A Quick Overview of the Internet of Things
According to The Motley Fool, the Internet of Things (known as IoT) is: “A network of physical objects that contain embedded technology (like sensors and Wi-Fi) to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment."
Everywhere you look, companies are embracing this technology and the cloud is an important aspect of keeping the entire thing connected. Over time, technology all over the world will be able to communicate with other forms of technology at the speed of light.
Add to that is the ongoing race of miniaturization. Companies are creating computers that are ever smaller and more powerful. This will eventually get to the point where much of our currently visible technology will become so small that it will be almost invisible. Imagine, as an example, if the current Google Glass technology became so small that you could easily fit that into a normal pair of glasses without anyone knowing what it is?
Of course IoT goes far beyond that. Not only will we be able to connect almost anything imaginable online, we will wind up with the question of what to connect and if or when.
Much of the IoT development has been with machine-to-machine applications (M2M) such as manufacturing and the energy industry. Devices with the ability to communicate are sometimes referred to as being "smart," such as the Smart Meter used to monitor electricity usage.
According to WhatIs.com, the Internet of Things has been around for many years. According Whatis.com, the first Internet appliance was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in the early 1980s. Back then, it was possible to check the status of the machine online and find out if a cold drink would be available when they decided to visit the machine.
What we are seeing is only the beginning. There is virtually no limit to what this technology will be able to offer in the fields of health and business, as an example. While it might seem far-fetched now, it could soon become possible to swallow nano-devices which will be able to perform microscopic surgery on the human body. Dean Koontz illustrates the possibilities well in his book, “By the Light of the Moon.”
There is a down side to this technology – privacy issues, in the workplace, public places and at home. Some would say that the reign of “Big Brother” is upon us (and has been for years).
Privacy has become a huge issue. Witness the debacle over the disclosures by Edward Snowden, which have highlighted how vulnerable we are to governmental interference.
Consider the issue of drones. Years ago this was known as R/C (radio control) and it was (and still is) a hobby for many people. Now, due to technology it has become much more powerful, due to the power of computers and radio transmission. Now, the military is able to fly these drones into combat missions in hostile areas without risking the lives of pilots.
A down side is using drones to spy on people and this issue has come up repeatedly in the media. In one story, the FBI admits to using drones to spy on American citizens. The director also admits that “there are no guidelines for their use.”
Another down side is the use of RFID chips, especially for tracking people. Some travelers I know have gone so far as to buy lead shielded cases for passports and credit cards, to thwart tracking.
In a presentation given by Victoria entrepreneur Peter Scott, he spoke about how technology was rapidly progressing towards an event known as “The Singularity.” This is a place in the not too distant future where technology becomes so advanced where the electronic intelligence will match the human mind, with all of its subtleties.
Humans will become attached to this vast intelligence through electronic interfaces built into their bodies and minds. With the advent of nanotechnology, this can vastly improve (some say destroy) our quality of life. An negative example of what that might be like is demonstrated in "The Matrix," or in the Terminator movies.
In addition to the vast power of technology, this intelligence will have the ability to refine, update and redesign itself, far faster than human evolution can match. When technology reaches the point where all systems blend into one vast intelligence, this will mark the beginning of "The Singularity."
Speculation abounds, but some futurists think it could happen within the next 10-15 years. Others think it will happen by 2045.
Into the Future
The IoT holds huge promise or a dark future, depending on how you want to look at it. There is no question that the IoT can bring enormous benefits to our society, as machines are miniaturized and are able to take over many of the tedious tasks now currently performed by human beings.
As the need for humans to run machines decreases, there will be more space for people to help people. This could take place in the form of spiritual development, counseling and coaching. In my home city of Victoria, many business professionals have now assumed the mantle of coach and the trend is growing.
The Internet of Things is upon us. Where it will go is unknown, though it promises to be an interesting ride.