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.

 

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Comments
  1. Gavp says:

    That makes more sense then than the definition I got out of Bleekers article. Objects working together in real time communication to interpret information and adapt their environment accordingly is a networked future that has a dark destination. I believe eventually it will cause complacency in humans and this will lead to a suffrage on every level of culture and society.

    I do understand the relevance of Bleeker’s example with the pigeon but I do not agree with his statement that this makes the object take on human characteristics. I agree with you that this will grant us with limitless information about our environment and the effectiveness of our creations, but this is where it stops I believe. The futuristic foresight of Bleeker is admirable but over the top.

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  2. boxcarjason says:

    I too see so much potential in this technology but I also tend to think of how often technology screws up. From what I understand, the key to this technologies existence is that it publishes relevant information. So rather than making us lazier, I think it makes our lives more efficient and doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) totally strip us of our responsibilities. I think its application to the environment is interesting as I can see a point to it but I can’t help but think this technology will be adapted for things like a smart microwave.

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  3. jmknight91 says:

    I think you explained it all really well. What I found that stood out to me most was the last paragraph that you wrote. I think that it is important to think about privacy measures before we get too excited about all of this technology. While I did think that I would be able to get used to this connection of all objects, and I think it would make life a lot easier in many aspects, I have to consider the potential harm or future problems that this correspondence will bring along with it. Overall, if the privacy situation can be overcome, then the internet of things will be a concept that I believe that I will welcome with open arms.

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  4. jonmaxwell says:

    So I watched the Terminator video on Will’s blog. And I may or may not have procrastinated over the weekend by watching Wall-e.. Or is it technically counted as research? Since the technology (robots etc) in Wall-e all interact with each in real time, while the humans get fat and lazy…

    To quote you, referring to Bleecker, “we can learn very much about our environment, important facts that can help us predict future issues.”

    I think this is a very optimistic outlook on the Internet of Things. Although I also think that we will rely too heavily on new technologies in our everyday lives (like we already do with Smartphones and the such), and that we will become complacent and lazy. Just like that guy in the video Ted showed us…

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  5. fskentzos says:

    It’s great that things can be so instantaneous! I like having everything in the palm of my hand. I only just got the iPhone 5 and have become obsessed with Siri. I remember as a kid watching the movie smart house, where the house was a computerised cyborg (more here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0192618/plotsummary), it may end up becoming a reality in the future… very distant future, thanks to the internet of things.

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  6. caitij says:

    I loved the idea of the ‘smart house’ – reminds me of an older Simpsons Halloween episode where their house is transformed into a smart house – where everything is done for the inhabitants and the appliances all communicate with one another.. Although I think its funny that this is seen as ‘Sci-Fi’ or scary – but really its where we are heading!

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  7. I think the potential for all these objects to interact is fantastic. But I think that the potential for misuse will mean that I resist these advancements in many areas of my life. Tracking my location being the big one. Yes its great that my alarm clock knows the route I take to work, but now so does anyone who hacks my alarm clock. Will I need a firewall for all the objects in my house?

    I definitely won’t be the first volunteer for a RFID implant.

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  8. Alysse says:

    As much as I wish I could ignore the scepticism behind the Internet of Things, I have to agree with you on its challenges towards privacy, especially after so much research on the matter this semester! The privacy laws definitely pose some big questions for the Internet of Things. Firstly, are current laws going to bring some potentially amazing aspects of IOT to a halt as they may challenge what was previously written for previous contexts? More importantly though, will these laws suited to different contexts be inadequate in protecting us from what IOT has to offer, ruining the very experience of IOT itself. The surveillance and privacy issues are definitely there, as you mention in the technology of sensors and this completely new level of personalisation and identification. Whilst I too will enjoy this exciting ride IOT has in store, I guess we always have to look at both sides of the story.

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  9. liquidsonny says:

    I can see the potential of this technology also the video Ted showed us in the lecture. There is always issues with new things come out. Internet is moving so fast as the law or policy makers are always struggle to catch up with.

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