My Super Smart Toothbrush – [DIGC202]

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.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

References

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

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3 thoughts on “My Super Smart Toothbrush – [DIGC202]

  1. All the positive implications of the notion of “the Internet of things” is truly captivating when reading it on the page. I mean, everything connected, talking with one another, and making our lives far more fluent and cohesive is very inviting. One thought though that crosses my mind, is that will we get to a point where technology is making too many of our decisions and consequently living too much of our lives for us. For example, if our technology is working together to tell us what to wear (senses the weather), where to be and when and what to eat, surely this will lead to a loss of the spontaneous behaviour that can often make life that much more interesting. We will lose part of the human process of making decisions based on our own rational thought, which could very well lead to a decrease in rational thought through out the whole population. I think it is important to step back once in a while and think about how much technology is doing for you. You might be very accepting of what it does for you on a daily basis. On the other hand, it might scare you as you see how little control of your life you really have.

  2. I like your post. The statistics from General Electric are really interesting; it is good to hear positive outcomes for peoples general wellbeing is a possible outcome of smarter technologies. The video’s discussion of Industrial Internet shows great potential for benefit for society in the future. Contrasting this perspective with the ‘Super Smart Toothbrush’ demonstrates how the Internet of things has its place, but is not appropriate in all areas of our life.

  3. I think there are serious privacy issues that need to be worked out immediately in terms of the Internet of Things. This link here (http://gigaom.com/2013/10/24/the-ftc-is-set-to-investigate-rules-for-the-internet-of-things/) shows just how there are both privacy issues and security issues. However, in thinking about privacy issues, would the Internet of Things really be any more invasive than the internet is already. We already have tonnes of our data collected online without us knowing, so would it really be all that bad?

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