We’ve paraphrased the title of a famous song by the Beatles to introduce you (in case you aren’t already familiarized with) the concept of “Internet of Things” (“IoT“).
The Internet of things!
Sounds like the title of a poem (although tech terms can sometimes be surprisingly metaphorical such as “white noise”) so you will ask “now, what in the world would that be?”
Well…it would be everything in the world, actually.
But we have to start by telling you just few words about RFID first.
RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) is the usage of wireless means (electromagnetic fields, that is) to connect specialized microchips attached to various objects currently for the purpose of identification and tracking.
Yes, of course it all started with a military invention and yes, of course miniaturization performed miracles on RFID chips too, until jaw-dropping small sizes.
So let’s simply say that currently RFID consists of RFID-tags (ie, microchips) which act like some sort of barcodes and RFID-readers which -you’ve already guessed- act like barcode readers.
Microchips can be active (battery-powered), battery-assisted passive (battery is activated by the reader when it starts reading) or have no internal power source at all, the needed energy being absorbed from the electromagnetic field of the interrogating device, in which case they are known as PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder).
The information contained by the RFID microchips can be read-only or re-writable.
Given the high degree of miniaturization RFID microchips can be embedded in so many things and living beings that it’s almost impossible to enlist them all: one can identify and track from ants to pets to farm cattle or wild animals, not to mention humans in the first place.
Or just parts of humans like for example the heart.
As for objects, a list of not yet implanted objects would probably be much shorter than the list of already implanted ones while a list of non-implantable objects would be simply empty.
In other words: ‘you name it, we microchip it’.
Remember the days when people got inter-connected via the Internet by using desktop computers?
Desktops turned smaller and more mobile to become laptops then other even smaller and even more mobile devices showed up, like tablets and phones.
Phones used to be just phones until serious software got into them thus making them ‘smart-phones’ then same happened to glasses (which became ‘smart-glasses’), to watches (which become ‘smart-watches’), to cameras and TVs and this phenomenon is wildly in progress, silently growing in labs all over the world then bursting almost overnight into our lives to almost immediate adoption.
Synthesizing all the above, any given object “X” can be (if it’s not already) subject to RFID-embedding but if microchips start carrying/running software instead of being just radio labels or tags, then “X” becomes “smart-X” and can be connected via the Internet to the rest of the world and prone for complex interactions. Not to mention that the software itself can be updated/upgraded thus allowing bug-fixes or new features adding.
You might think that such a tremendous number of connectable items require a tremendously vast pallette of unique Internet addresses (IPs).
Well, don’t let such details bother you, folks: IP v.6 is already here and provides an address space so huge that each atom of the Earth can be assigned some 40.000 unique addresses.
That should do for a while, isn’t it?
Then you might also think that inter-connecting literally everything is too “fantasy” even for our days and that technology giants are currently busy rather figuring-out how to make existing products better and cheaper.
Well, if you think that way you’re completely wrong: everyone in the stratosphere of high-technology is staring at the “internet of things”, Microsoft, Google and Apple or Cisco, to give just some quick examples.
Let us tell you 2 relevant stories so you can see that not only the Internet of things is already here but it also generates bizarre migrations of long-range visionaries between high-tech giants.
Just a matter of days ago (mid-July) Google and pharmaceutical giant Novartis officially announced a partnership to make smart-contact-lenses.
Perhaps for Google it was just a logical step to move from glasses to contact-lenses but anyways, the idea behind it is that the “device” will not only correct eye vision automatically but it will also be able to determine the level of glucose in the tears for those who suffer from diabetes (about 30 million people in the USA only).
The embedded antenna is thinner than hair and will allow connection to a dedicated Google platform (actually Google already beta-runs a health dedicated platform named GoogleFit while Apple has its own counterpart, the HealthKit platform).
And although everyting needed is almost in place already, apparently Google and Novartis didn’t initially intend to make the deal public so early but they had to, as one of Google’s visionary co-inventors of this device (and also inventor of Google Glasses) had left Google for Amazon just few days before.
The other story is about Apple’s vice-president for the iPod division (also credited as main creator of the iPod) who -after leaving Apple- started his own Company (named Nest Labs) which produces… well… thermostats.
You know, those boring devices that allow you to set the room temperature at a certain level, beyond which heating is stopped thus saving your money.
Well, this engineer thought existing thermostats weren’t good enough, so he decided to design a next-generation of them, endowing the thermostats with software capable of detecting if someone is in the house to determine whether or not the heat generators should be working at all.
But wait, there’s more: his thermostats aren’t driven by trivial software.
In fact, the software uses Artificial Intelligence and it’s so complex it’s capable of learning the habits of the owner: at what time does he leave home? At what time does he get back home? What are his working days? It simply knows to stop the heating when the house is empty and start it in due time, just before someone will get back. This way the temperature will be optimal when entering the house.
Goodness gracious, what’s next? A thermostat so smart that it can get a job and pay the mortgage?
Google was so interested in these thermostats it actually purchased the company this year in a deal exceeding 3 billion USD (yes, billions not millions).
Well folks, we hope that you now have an idea on what the “Internet of things” is all about.
These days we keep on adding the “smart-” prefix to the name of objects with “added-intelligence” and Internet connectivity but there might be a day when there will be so many of them that adding “smart” to their names will simply be redundant, thus useless.
That day, the Earth will probably be regarded as being inhabited by “The Entity“.
And you, folks, you will have to watch your mouths because everything around you or within you will be spying on you, including your underwear.
Which of course, will be running some complex under-ware.