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Technology Trends: The Internet of Things
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Technology Trends: The Internet of Things - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: The Internet of Things

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: The Internet of Things

“The Internet of Things,” a phrase coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, describes the interconnectivity of everyday objects, such as cars, household appliances, streets, front doors, toothbrushes, heart rate monitors, animals, and people. Wireless communication technology and the increasing reduction in the size of sensors that make use of it combine to make possible a world where, on the most trivial of levels, a refrigerator might tell you when you’re running low on milk or, on more life-changing levels, when household conditions are primed for some kind of catastrophe.

In its 6th Annual Digital IQ Survey of 1500 worldwide business and technology executives (http://www.pwc.com/us/en/advisory/digital-iq-survey), Pricewaterhouse Coopers learned that 25% of top-performing companies will invest in sensors this year, up from 18% a year ago. Only 18% and 19% of North American and European companies are purchasing this technology, though, compared to 23%, 22%, and 24% of the companies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The possibilities seem endless and reach into every realm of lifestyle, industry, and commerce. Whether it’s the gamification of mundane activities such as exercise and healthy eating or the actual automation and control over driving and order fulfillment, with the Internet of Things (alternately “The Cloud of Things”), a new idea seems possible for each new added thing. On the consumer end, every formerly unpleasant task that can be shortened, eased, or eliminated altogether would appear to be fair game. On the back end, there are multiple opportunities for establishing some kind of leading handhold on serving newly created needs.

For example, standardization hasn’t yet been set for the way these devices will converse with each other. There is also the need for a far greater capacity for IP addresses, if every appliance in every household is to have its own identified location on the Internet. And if every residence or business has a hundred (or more) unique things in this Internet of Things, will each require its own means of control and regulation, or will there be some way of monitoring and manipulating them all with one device?

As with every new use of connected technology, issues of privacy and security must come into play. The number of eggs in your refrigerator might seem a harmless morsel of information, but when combined with other seemingly useless real-time facts, can the aggregate data in the wrong hands reveal things about you that you’d rather keep to yourself? Early this month, Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller released their list of the 20 most hackable cars in America. In the recent past, they demonstrated how a car’s onboard system can be hacked so that headlights, brakes, steering wheel, and horn could be manipulated by someone outside the car. Increased connectivity means increased vulnerability and the need for increased protection.

The ecological impact of every new technology must also be considered. Cell phone waste worldwide is a problem that nobody seemed to consider in the early years of this technology. What will be the effects on the global environment by the large increase in connected devices? Will there be health concerns for those who manufacture, implement, and recycle this technology?

On larger, more abstract levels, questions must arise about the way the Internet of Things will change our perceptions and behaviors. The Internet changed the way we spent our leisure time, our professional time, and our money; it stands to reason that increased automation will change something else. How will it affect the way we think about our homes, and how will it affect what we do with our office spaces, and where will new problems arise with new ways of thinking about both? In realms of education, religion, entertainment, and politics, will new crises emerge even as old ones are solved?

With all its inherent, unknown pitfalls, the Internet of Things is also exciting for all its unseen possibilities. When the first camera was attached to a cell phone, it could not have been predicted, for all its projected new applications, that an era of citizen journalism might result, or that the very definition of celebrity would change in its wake. Just imagining how many niches can be addressed by the phrase “The Internet of _________ Things,” where the blank is “business,” “community service,” “athletic,” or any other special interest is kind of mind-blowing in its seemingly endless scope.

The effects of the Internet of Things on every aspect of our lives could conceivably surpass in depth and breadth even the effects the Internet of computers has had on us all in just these past few years.

 

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