The Internet of Things | Allowing more ‘things’ to think and act for us!

Have you ever wondered about all this talk of “things” being “smart”?

“Smart” phones and “smart” cars, “smart” homes and “smart” bars… with all this talk about things getting “smarter”, one has to wonder, are we as humans allowing ourselves to become, well, less smart? We’re certainly becoming more reliant on technology that’s for sure, and allowing more and more “things” to think and act for us. Enter … the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items – even animals and people, embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these things to connect and exchange data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits and reduced human intervention. Did you also read reduced human interaction? Well our “smart” phones are already doing that, thank you very much.

A “thing” in the IoT can be a person with a heart monitor, a pet or farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built in sensors to alert the driver when tyre pressure is low, or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.

According to Statista, the number of ‘Internet of Things’ devices increased 31% year-over-year to 8.4 billion in 2017 and it is estimated that there will be 30 billion devices by 2020. The global market value of IoT is projected to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020. Those are a lot of connected “things” worth a great deal of money! And not just because of the value of the devices themselves. Read on.

The concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified soft drink vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first Internet-connected appliance able to report its inventory and whether or not newly loaded drinks were cold.

The Internet of Things covers pretty much every part of life as we know it…

with every device connected to and within this increasingly globalised world we live in today; from consumer devices pertaining to our vehicles, homes, health and security (to name a few), to the industries of manufacturing, agricultural, medical and healthcare, transportation, energy management, environmental monitoring – the list goes on. It all comes down to data, and the need for data to be shared, stored and moved quickly to “improve” life. And while many of these things connected to the Internet certainly do improve life, we have to be “smart” enough to know that there are some obvious problems that could, and do, arise when you start connecting every device in your office or home to the world wide web…

Security – If any teenager with a hacking tool can gain access to school exam records or a disgruntled employee through a company’s firewall, imagine what hardened criminals or perverts could do with your laptop, baby monitor and fridge cameras? The more ‘Internet of Things’ we add to our lives, the more we open ourselves up to security threats and the more we need to secure these “things”. Do we really need yet another password for another device which may or may not actually be that useful? Well not to you anyway.

Privacy. And No, That’s Not the Same as Security – Big Data. Big Money in IoT is in Big Data. That’s what it’s all about for big corporations these days. They don’t make money from the devices you buy … not much anyway. They’re making money from you, your patterns, your data. And while you go and purchase smart baby monitors, and smart fridges to watch your kids and food, hoping to keep them safer and healthier, you’re not the only one being watched. The big corporations are monitoring you! The more Internet of Things you have, the more Big Data they collect. And once they know how you behave, they know how to control the way you behave. Which brings us to…

Digital Fatigue – Remember back to the good old days when the trusty tv rabbit ears picked up three stations, and phones were attached to the wall? You do? … Well consider yourself old. But it’s not just us grey hairs who pine for the good old days when we weren’t so wired as we are today. You don’t have to follow all the angry tweets and Instagram posts of Facebook’s latest mind control scheme to realise that people of all ages are getting fed up. Too much social media, too many smart phones, too many YouTube videos to watch, too many apps to download, too much digital “stuff” online. We can’t even enjoy bat and ball at the beach with our kids or walk a mountain without checking Instagram for heaven’s sake! And don’t get me started on selfies! What the hell is wrong with us anyway?

Now along comes the Internet of Things, promising to connect everything from our eyeglasses to our watches, our appliances to our streetlights, and on and on… can’t we just download a big OFF switch so we can hear ourselves think for once, and actually allow ourselves to be bored enough to be creative again! I cringe when I hear Steve Job’s famous quote of finally finding the cure for boredom. We as humans have never been more creative than when we are bored.

Artificially Intelligent IoT – And last but not least, what happens when the Internet of Things becomes artificially intelligent – being able to act independently (pursuing their own objectives or shared ones) depending on the context, circumstances or environments? Who controls who then? Too far fetched? Not really… It’s coming.

And all because we’re too “smart” for our own good.

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