Ever wondered if there would come a day when your toothbrush contained GPS and Wi-Fi? To those who grew up with just your standard Oral-B or Colgate toothbrush, the idea of such gadgetry in a day-to-day product sounds completely absurd. Well with thanks to some genius activity at the MIT Lab in 1999 and a descriptive definition and label by Kevin Ashton in 2009, the term ‘The Internet of Things’ was born.
In layman’s terms the definition of the ‘The Internet of Things’ is the connection of physical objects to the Internet. The way in which this technology becomes increasingly complex is by introducing a sociability aspect to the system.
In its early stages of development the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) was seen as prerequisite for all objects connected to the Internet. Zheng (2011, pg.30) describes these connections as “facilitators of fast-paced interactions among the objects themselves, as well as the objects and persons in any place and at any time.” These physical objects not only serve a material and practical purpose, they take on the roll of information portals. As mentioned above with the extreme toothbrush example, the use of GPS and Wi-Fi ultimately spells the end of lying to your dentist about your dental regime. He will now know be able to connect your toothbrush to his system and check your full dental routine since your last check-up.
Sounds a touch invasive doesn’t it? With the power of RFID not only does the object gain a networking address (allowing the object to be uniquely identifiable) it also gains a sensory capacity, allowing it to dynamically register change within its environment. To explain the complexities around the systems of IoT would require more than just a 500-word blog post. Already we are seeing the power of the IoT in use both privately (in our homes and businesses) monitoring our power usage through the use of RFID, and also publically by creating monitoring systems that allow for advanced warning in the event of a crisis.
Inevitably with any new technology the issue of privacy is always at the forefront of users minds. Atzori (2010, pg.2802) believes that these concerns about privacy are indeed well justiﬁed. In fact, the ways in which data collection, mining, and provisioning will be accomplished in the IoT are completely different from those that we now know and there will be an amazing number of occasions for personal data to be collected. Therefore, for human individuals it will be impossible to personally control the disclosure of their personal information.
Again society is faced with another social and ethical dilemma on its hands. Do the advantages of IoT far out way the negative aspects such as the demand of data and privacy issue? In a report issued by General Electric (one of the worlds largest publically listed companies) they estimated that with the aid of IoT and smarter technologies they could see a reduction of.
- $30 billion worth of jet fuel for the airline industry
- $63 billion in global health care savings with more optimised treatments, patient flows, and equipment use in hospitals.
- $66 billion savings in fuel consumption for the global gas-fired power plant fleet.
Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO himself stated “By connecting intelligent machines to each other and ultimately to people, and by combining software and big data analytics, we can push the boundaries of physical and material sciences to change the way the world works”.
And here I was thinking that the Internet was illegal downloads; funny cat memes and images of girls in bikinis that need to each a whole lot more.
The Internet is a truly amazing beast. As a society we are in the early stages in the creation of an Internet of Things and the above examples provide just a glimpse into what is possible when you combine sensors, actuators, and networked intelligence.
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing
Atzori L, Lera A, Morabito G (2010). The Internet of Things: A survey, Computer Networks, Vol 54, No 15, pp 2787-2805, accessed 23 October, Science Direct Database, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389128610001568
Zheng J, Simplot-Ryl, D.; Bisdikian, C.; Mouftah, H.T (2011). The internet of things [Guest Editorial],” Communications Magazine, Vol.49, No.11, pp.30,31, accessed 23 October 2013, Accessed Summons Database, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6069706&isnumber=6069696