Today, 9 April 2013, is Internet of Things Day.
The Internet of Things? Yep, I had no idea what it was either, until I did a bit of searching and reading on the subject. It is a rather complex concept, first introduced during a talk in 1999 by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton. 10 years later in 2009, Ashton wrote a note in RFID Journal explaining in more detail “That ‘Internet of Things’ Thing”, as he called it.
Basically, his idea is that the vast majority of the information contained in the Internet, as we know it, has been captured and created by human beings, “by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code”. People, however, have limited time, and are in many circumstances not that good (in terms of attention, accuracy etc) at capturing data anyway. By getting computers and other machines. without human intervention, to gather and capture information about ‘things’, we would gain access to unthinkably vast sets of information. This will allow us to track and count everything – we will know the status of things, when they need to be replaced, repaired or recalled; whether they’re fresh or past their useful date.
Ashton’s vision is to “empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves, in all its random glory. RFID and sensor technology enable computers to observe, identify and understand the world—without the limitations of human-entered data.”
Various alternative definitions have been suggested for the Internet of Things (IoT), but as I understand it, in a nutshell, it is a connected network of computers and other smart devices measuring and capturing information about any number of ‘things’ out there. The data collected by this IoT is vast and powerful, and to a large extent still untapped. Closely related concepts include ‘ambient intelligence’ and ‘ubiquitous computing’.
The range of applications of the IoT is massive, including waste management, intelligent shopping, emergency response, home automation and urban planning, to name a few.
Internet of Things Day exists to create increased awareness about the concept, and how it may impact on life as we know it. While I am pretty sure my understanding is still on the dangerous side of rudimentary, I have to admit I find it exciting, scary and just plain daunting in more or less equal measures.
So here’s to an interesting and exciting Internet of Things Day to you and all the machines and devices around you…