If you had asked me a year ago if I thought objects were able to communicate with other objects and with humans, I would have said no. An alarm clock is only an alarm clock, it cannot possibly know that I must get up 15 minutes earlier today because there have been an accident on the road, and therefore I must drive a longer way to work. Well guess what, I have just been told and convinced, that this is today a fact. How incredible is that?
Through the use of radio frequency identifiers (RFID) and networked sensors, objects of all sizes can now be connected to the Internet and contribute to the flow of information online. Once an object is connected it will be branded with its own unique IP address so it is identifiable as well as locatable, it will register changes in its environment through its sensor which it can store and process, and it will be able to communicate this information to humans and initiate action (Mitew 2012).
I see so much potential in this! There is the fun and practical aspect of it, like the example of the alarm clock which communicates with the car, which knows that it needs gas, and therefore you are woken up 10 minutes earlier. There are visions of having a whole smart-house where everything communicates with each other as well as with you through your smartphone. There is no doubt that it can be done, but I am not convinced that I will adopt this life-style where I am literally stripped of responsibilities; my coffee is finished when I wake up, the dishwasher goes on automatically when it is full, the fridge tells me when I am out of milk, the vacuum-cleaner has cleaned my house.. well I will probably conform to the latter.
But this technology can also be used for many good things. Julian Bleecker in “Why Things Matter” talks about “pigeons that are equipped with some telematics to communicate on the Internet wirelessly, a GPS device for tracing where its been flying, and an environmental sensor that records the levels of toxins and pollutants in the air through which they fly.” What he is saying is that through this technology we can learn very much about our environment, important facts that can help us predict future issues. Imagine doing this with fish, plants, or even buildings, imagine all the valuable information we could retrieve.
The Internet of Things has truly come to grab my attention. But I take notice of one more thing. We invent and develop new technologies all the time, most of it today in relevance to the Internet, everything goes online, but when are we going to see changes in our privacy laws? With these tiny censors on cell-phones, t-shirts, pets, cars etc. we are more than likely to be traced and recognized wherever we are. So although I enjoy the exciting ride of new technology, I will not truly enjoy it before someone steps up and develop a privacy law which is adapted to our new digital age.
Reference: Mitew, T 2012, The internet of things, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 22 October.