Originally published in The Clarion | October 03, 2012
Everywhere we go, it seems we are surrounded by the Internet. Sure there are exceptions – remote campgrounds, parks and woodlands – but even most of these locations are covered by some sort of cellular signal. If there is one solid truth concerning our future, we will never return to a time where communication actually required some effort. There is a newer technology on the horizon, one that can be considered both exciting and troubling, that promises to alter how we as humans function and possibly even bring about some of the Sci-Fi scenarios that were once only ideas of fantasy.
As we take a closer look at this technology, it must once again be pointed out that the Web is not the Internet. Simply put, the World Wide Web uses the Internet as a communications mechanism. The Internet can function just fine without the Web, the Web must have the Internet in order to exist. With that clarification out of the way, this new technology – the “Internet of Things” (IoT) – should make more sense. The basic idea, in generic terms, of the IoT is that any and essentially every “thing” can be “connected”. From traffic signals to toothbrushes, dishwashers to tennis shoes, in the IoT everything has a presence and contributes to the network. Just what the item contributes is dictated by the manufacturer or company that retrofits the item to the network. This may sound confusing, hopefully an example will help.
Let’s use a common clothes dryer for our example. Most of us are familiar with this item, it has been a common home appliance for a very long time. We know how to operate it and typically don’t even have to think about what we’re doing when we put it to use. This same clothes dryer, when added to the IoT still serves the same function for the user, but has additional capabilities. In the IoT, the dryer can notify its owner that the lint filter needs cleaning long before it becomes clogged. It can also communicate to the manufacturer or vendor that the timer is failing and needs to be replaced. These added functions occur without any human intervention – something drastically different from the Internet-related technologies that we are familiar with today.
Devices in the IoT will produce data on their own. On top of this, IoT device data can be exchanged between other IoT devices to generate even more data – data that can be used for an untold number of functions. Traffic signals will be able to sense congestion and communicate to other signals in their vicinity, instructing them to modify their sequences until the congestion lessens. Tons of other ideas and examples exist, these are just a few. No matter our thoughts on this new technology, one thing is certain. The IoT is coming and will, without a doubt, alter our daily lives.