Some thoughts on the “Internet of Things”

The “Internet of Things” has become a commonly used phrase and I think it’s quite a good on: we’ve some idea what the “Things” are but no idea where it will lead (although Hollywood has tried a few times over the years). One thing we can not do is dissolve ourselves of the management responsibility as there will always need to be humans somewhere in the system to avoid the “Skynet” scenario from the Terminator films.

More positively, the Internet of Things has the potential to make the digital world a very pervasive aspect of our daily lives in the physical world, supporting and enhancing many of the positive aspects of society and the aspirations we have for living together.

Eventually, people will have as many sensors as a Formula One racing cars (well, quite a few anyway!), sending lots of data in to the cloud.  Not quite as wired up as the people involved with the measured life movement but they are leading the charge. At some point out human-centric devices will become patches (electronic tattoos), powered by energy harvested from our bodies (thermal or kinetic) and that’s when things get really exciting. We can expect to see mobile phones being used as a proxy device to pass telemetry to the Cloud. You can see why the Health industry wants this technology (although, by then we’re not talking about health but “well being”) and we might need far fewer trips to visit a doctor as a result.

Intelligent Device Hierarchy Potential, by Harbor ResearchNow with the number of “things” feeding the Internet, the potential to manage and change the way we do things is an exciting prospect – and we’re not just looking at health – examples include energy management, traffic management, alert and monitoring systems – the list goes on.

One example reaching commercial introduction is the Boeing-Fujitsu partnership with RFID tags, where the tags contain the service history of a component and, using hand held scanners, maintenance staff can determine which parts need to be serviced – how long before this can be managed in-flight, with the parts waiting on the ground ready to intercept the aircraft on a just-in time basis?

Another aspect of the Internet of things will be our ability to make smart decisions based on the large volumes of data we will have to hand. This “big data”, along with associated analytics tools, can be used to spot patterns with examples including traffic, energy consumption and weather. Imagine a world of connected systems where the weatherman might not only predict the “Barbeque Summer” with a little more accuracy, but we won’t get stuck in traffic as we all rush to the beach!

Image credit: Harbor Research

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