I have been thinking lately about “The Internet of Things.” This is really more a concept than a tangible device or product. It is kind of like the cloud. The theory is that physical objects will each have their own identity and will be connected to the Internet and be able to communicate with other physical devices also on the Internet. This is all possible today but here is the thing that concerns me: if each device creates and broadcasts data such as its location and condition, how do we process all of that information? We are already drowning in man-made data as it is.
According to Techopedia, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and will be able to identify themselves to other devices.”
According to TechTarget, “The technologies for an Internet of Things are already in place. Things, in this context, can be people, animals, servers, applications, shampoo bottles, cars, steering wheels, coffee machines, park benches, or just about any other random item that comes to mind.” Can you think of physical objects that you would like to be connected? Can you think of objects that you hope never become connected?
All That Data
With all of the data pouring in from all of these physical objects, how are we going to be able to process everything? How are we going to be able to make sense of everything and characterize all of this data into a form that we can understand? Can this all be boiled down to a visualization? Does it need to be? Am I thinking too humancentric?
I believe that it is no accident that “Big Data” and “The Internet of Things” are being discussed in the same space and time. It is almost as if they are meant for each other. The Internet of Things will create Big Data, but we need to look beyond our human construct. We need to work on ways to automate the extraction and filtering of data as well as the decision making based on that filtered data. If we think beyond the notion that we as humans have to touch and understand and make every decision, then we free ourselves to apply our unique capabilities to the intractable problems of the world. Physical objects can make rational decisions that benefit themselves. For example, could your coffeemaker consult your calendar to determine the likelihood of your presence? Could your calendar broadcast to other devices as well? Consider the efficiencies gained by stepping out of that decision-making process. We are cognitive beings that can better spend our time on real problems.
Do you take a utopian or dystopian view of this future? Are we headed toward the Jetsons or toward 1984’s Big Brother? Can we really figure out what to do with all of the data that is coming? Let me know your thoughts.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.