The Internet of Things

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The internet of things

Dave Evans, “Chief Futurist” at Cisco, is confident that the internet of things will change everything. In a report published under Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, Evans explains that as more sensors are added to the Internet, almost anything can be connected to the Internet, revolutionizing the state of the Internet. All that it is asking for is giving up privacy and information, in exchange for unlimited knowledge and a creation of a “global brain.”

What is the Internet of things?

The internet of things is the point in time when more “things or objects” were connected to the Internet than people. So, when did the internet of things emerge? If we look at the data provided by Cisco IBSG in April 2011, in 2003, the world population was 6.3 billion, and connected devices stood at 500 million. By dividing the numbers, we get that the number of connected devices per person is less than one. Starting 2010, the number of connected devices per person increased to more than 1. Hence, the Internet of things was “born.” In real terms though, that number is way more, because not all of the world population is connected to the internet. According to Cisco IBSG, the number of connected devices will reach 25 billion in 2015, and 50 billion in 2020, which means that there will be more than 6 connected devices per person!

Brain scientist and entrepreneur Jeff Stibel draws parallels between the internet and the brain. In an interview with the BBC, he explained that the internet is starting to develop intelligence, which in turn results in the creation of a global brain. In the same way that the brain functions, there are ways to add sensors to the internet. Technological advances and initiatives such as Cisco’s Planetary Skin and HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) could potentially add millions of sensors to the Internet, thereby connecting anything and almost everything to the Internet. That means anything ranging from appliances, roads, water pipes, to people, plants and animals could be connected to the Internet.

According to Evans’ report, this revolutionary leap could change the way people live, learn, work and entertain themselves. “It’s about a holistic approach across industries,” Evans explained in an interview with TTKKTKT once. The implications are overwhelming, as Evans anticipates IoT to revolutionize everything from medicine to retail and finance. Imagine a future where a connected car can connect to other cars, receiving warning signs from the roads that are also connected. This can help solve problems of congestion, as cars could send messages to other cars, suggesting they take a different route. Or imagine a refrigerator that orders groceries once it runs out of supply. From a medical standpoint, the internet of things could mean that doctors can insert connected devices in patients’ bodies to better diagnose.

In a special report in the Economist, 2010, the idea of connected cows was introduced. Sensors are implanted in the cattle’s’ ears, allowing farmers to track movement and monitor their heath. This results in a healthier supply of meat for people.

The Downside

There’s a huge downside to all of this, though. Although Evans fails to admit it, the internet of things has major security issues in terms of privacy, governance and trust, especially if the data is stored in insecure locations. Also, the data collected can identify, label and define us without our approval or knowledge. The European Union Commission acknowledged that legislation would not be able to keep up with the Internet of things: “The technology will have moved on by leaps and bounds by that stage; the legislation simply cannot keep up with the pace of technology.”

BOX OUT:

Figure 1. The Internet of Things Was “Born” Between 2008 and 2009 White Paper

Source: Cisco IBSG, April 2011

BOX OUT 2:
Cloud

The concept of the Internet of Things relates to the ever...
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