The Internet of Things: Friend or Foe?

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Exactly what is “The “Internet of Things?” Well, perhaps the easiest way to explain it is to make the simple statement that a new breed of sensors, actuators and and mini computers are being embedded into machines and devices and connected to the internet. Taking a small computer, sensor or actuator and embedding it in a formerly un-computerized object can allow us to control the object, gather data from the object, and connect the object to other things through a localized network or the Internet.

Due to the continued evolution and miniaturization of digital electronics, it has become easy to find very capable small computers that can be coupled or imbedded into an object to bring it onto the Internet where it can have two way communications with an intelligent system-anywhere in the world. The amazing thing is it’s becoming easy to embed systems that make use of the same operating systems and programming languages used in business servers and workstations. Put simply, the internet allowed people to connect and communicate. Now, “things” can also be connected and communicate with other things as well as human beings.

According to “Wired” magazine: “Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, perhaps the biggest one is the Internet of Things; it’s the one that’s going to give us the most disruption as well as the most opportunity over the next five years.”

Embedded systems have been around for decades, but for most of their existence programmers have needed special software development to write unique code to integrate different objects with computer systems. Today, there are a range of platforms on which engineers can develop new devices and prototypes for IoT applications. Moreover, the coding and integration of the universe of objects that can become “intelligent” offers a great opportunity for new application developers.

In general, the public is not yet aware of the opportunities that are now possible by being able to set up networks of devices that can talk to each other and to us. The IoT has already proven successful in the private commercial sector, smartening up homes, workplaces, and cars. Now it’s making inroads in the public services sector, too. For example, the “Smart city initiatives” like optimized trash collection, traffic management, and energy consumption show the Internet of Things’ promise to improve our day-to-day experiences with the public services we use. Instead of having to report problems and then wait for them to be fixed, our governments can identify, predict, and prevent issues before they happen. By tracking IoT enabled analytics and making adjustments in real-time, these systems are streamlining government infrastructure operations so they are more resource-, time-, and cost-effective.[1]

IoT the Disruptor      

One very interesting possible home use of IoT that could greatly impact some sectors of the gigantic food industry is the ability to set up automated and remotely controlled IoT personal hydroponic systems for homes and apartments. Everything can be automated and monitored and requires little space. Moreover the IoT will play an important part in driverless cars. Over half of the blue collar jobs in America involve commercial ground transportation. How disruptive will driverless trucking or buses be? Will IoT get into commercial airplane cockpits and eliminate the need for a co-pilot? How will the medical field be impacted with IoT? Robot surgeons, nurses and home care professionals may become replaced by technology. This subject of job replacement and the IoT will play a central role in future of societies everywhere. Will there be the return of the Luddites of the 19th century?

The Importance of the Cloud

The Internet of Things doesn’t really become reality without cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit the data coming from all the sensors. The cloud is what enables the apps to go to work for you anytime, anywhere.[2]

Privacy issues-Big Brother is watching

One of the main applications for Big Data and the IoT will be the collection of real-time analysis of data about consumer behavior. Combined with IoT connected cameras, cell phone GPS and credit/debit card transaction monitoring, firms will be able to dig deep into personal lives. Although most of the commercial exploitation of personal information will be used for sales and marketing purposes, the danger lies with the ability for governments to track personal activity in detail never seen before. As we write this article, the FBI is arm wrestling with Apple over iPhone access to information from one of the San Bernardino terrorists. With IoT there is the real possibility for a “Brave New World” where big brother will be watching over us. It’s a thing of science fiction but it is just around the corner.






Additional Reading

Quantum Computing and the Internet of Things…a Potential Economic Paradigm Shift

The Sharing Economy: Threat or Opportunity?


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