It’s great to be online. Connected, in touch, unlimited information, computers in our pockets. It’s the information age, after all.
Companies are happy that you’re online, too. So much so that efforts are ramping up to put almost every device, motor, gadget, and thing in our lives online. The purpose, of course, is to gather data. It’s not enough that the mother ship (ships) is (are) watching while we use a computer or device. Soon, every time we open a refrigerator, start a car, turn on some music, or presumably sit on the couch, a data stream will be generated.
It’s being called the Internet of Things (IoT). Tiny chips connected to the Internet will soon be embedded in almost everything around us to gather data and send it to whoever the terms of service (that we must agree to before turning on that washing machine or desk lamp) say it can be sent to. If you’re a company, you probably like the idea. You’ll learn much about your customers and the use of your product. If you’re a consumer and you’re concerned at all about privacy, you may begin to feel that this is big data running amuck.
The Internet of Things is made up of IP-enabled, totally embedded applications within devices that connect to the network. This includes sensors, machines, active positioning tags, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, and building automation equipment, to name but a few. Here there is the potential for trillions of nodes. Imagine every device in your home and workplace, every crucial component in an industrial machine, connected to the Internet. This layer of the Internet is only just emerging and will completely eclipse the Internet as we know it today in terms of scale.
We already see the IoT in items like household thermostats, electric meters, cable TV boxes, and especially wearables like the new watch computers from Samsung, Apple, and others. Maybe some of the data generated will help us save energy, combat diseases, better feed the world, and otherwise improve our lives. The tech companies love the idea, in no small part, because of the money to be made producing all these chips and devices. I’m not sure if it will work, however, at least if home networks remain under our control. But some of the largest tech companies are vigorously lobbying for free nationwide WiFi, which would certainly help make the data collection ubiquitous. It’s the information age, after all. But remember that the information is flowing both ways.
There’s a lot more worth learning about regarding the Internet of Things. The link below provides a good overview of this timely subject.
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