The Internet Of Things sounds like the title of a sci-fi book, but is actually the next phase of the Internet – it is about machines talking to machines, and is largely going to revolve around the usefulness of embedded software and the limits of our imagination. Such is the excitement of this oncoming wave of new technology that it reminds me of the early days of Google. When at last we had a decent search engine I can remember thinking “infinite possibilities, oh what to search for?” Then sitting back and watching the cursor flash in the Google search field, trying to think big and but finding myself searching for something like ‘funny cat pictures’. I’m making this connection with the internet of things because equally, so vast are the possibilities, here I am again like a bunny in the headlights. Option paralysis if you will.

Usually at a time like this, someone comes along with a relatively simple idea that explodes onto the market and makes billions, but I’m yet to hear of anyone making dramatic life changing IoT applications yet. We’ve all heard about the fridge that can text your phone to say you are low on milk, but I’m thinking no, that’s not going to set the world alight. Something that can sense where the nearest available car parking space is? That’s more like it.

In theory I will eventually be able to have my entire existence analysed by my Things. At the end of the day when I kick off my shoes, they will send data to my virtual assistant who will be able to tell me that I “have walked over 3 miles today, but I’ve overdone my daily salt consumption by 5% again, but not to worry because my weekly grocery shopping order has readdressed this problem with low sodium products”.

Soon life will have the potential to record and present to you and the world every move you make, with sensors and monitors cutting through any comfortable denial you might have about your short comings. When someone is informed in no uncertain terms that they have smoked this many cigarettes today/this week/this year/this lifetime, which has cost them this much money, reduced the oxygen to their brains by this percentage and increased their blood pressure to these levels, then I guess there is some real potential for people using this information to significantly improve their well being. The question is how much scrutiny could you take about your own life? A question worth asking, because soon you will have many more choices with implications that will raise countless issues concerning privacy not to mention self obsession. Using your phone to remotely switch your heating on an hour before you get home on a cold winters night is just the start. What we will be looking at soon is information that will be available to show to us the exact carbon foot print you are making with your heating, how much you have gone over target and a selection of sacrifices you can make at a click of a button to rebalance it.

Before we get all flustered about the about the imminent invasion of The Internet of Things let’s take a collective and unmonitored breath of air. The here and now of the IoT is focused on industry. Manufacturing, energy, healthcare and transportation will all benefit from these new levels of connectivity. In turn this will give those involved the chance to iron out the most obvious challenges like standardisation and security. Also we will get to see those on the bleeding edge of development getting inspired and bringing to the commercial market, friendly applications that help, educate and entertain us in ways never seen before.

Noel Peatfield