Imagine a world where one things was connected to another, and that connected to the next one, and so on, till we get a very large web of connectivity among…well, nearly everything. Sounds something like a futuristic movie concept? Surprisingly, such an idea had been introduced quite some-time back, through the Auto ID Centre at MIT, and named by Kevin Ashton in 1999, as The Internet of Things. The IoT consist of objects tagged by a unique id. They constitute an internet-like structure through virtual representation.
So how exactly does it work out? Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was seen as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things in the early days. The idea went like all the objects and even people could be given a unique identifier, so their information could be stored and managed by computers. Newer technologies that could achieve the same purpose would barcodes and QR Codes, NFC (Near –Field Communication) and digital watermarking. The process is termed as “tagging”.
There are several beneficial outcomes that could be thought of with regards to the IoT. For example, a business could track, within a short time, which products were being consumed and which were not, so they could avoid wastage by reducing production of unwanted goods.
The prediction by research teams is that by 2020, about 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things. About 50 to 100 trillion objects would have to be tagged and encoded.
Sensor networks would play a determinant role in this. The geospatial information of objects would have critical significance in this “information ecosystem”.
The potentiality of the IoT is huge. From an Artficial Intelligence perspective of Internet of Things, the “digital traces” of people could be collected from their day-to-day interactions with physical things turned into smart devices. It would make urban planning, environmental monitoring, health and emergency services, retail, and home automation way easier to implement. And those are just a few ideas. From a broader perspective, we could learn about the interaction of humans with their environment. It could throw light on the social activities, connections, and details, and reveal hidden clues to the causes of observable effects.
The smart city of Songdo in South Korea, fully wired and ubiquitously connected, is almost on the verge of completion. It is like an urban realm of smart homes and systems connected through a stream of data. Every one of them would be monitored by computers almost automatically.Thus, Internet of Things, enabling “smart” systems to replace complex human cognition is an achievable reality.
However, the rosy picture is tainted by criticisms from scholars and social scientists, who have expressed skepticism about the technology revolution. Would it affect our moral responsibility and awareness?
Is the Internet of Things is braced towards the security threats and challenges? A legitimate fear is that cyber security breaches could penetrate even physical components, rather than being restricted to virtual ones.
Nevertheless, there we hardly like looking back when it comes to progressive technology in the present world. Quoting Kevin Ashton, from That ‘Internet of Things’ Thing, RFID Journal, July 22, 2009:
“We’re physical, and so is our environment … You can’t eat bits, burn them to stay warm or put them in your gas tank. Ideas and information are important, but things matter much more. Yet today’s information technology is so dependent on data originated by people that our computers know more about ideas than things. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did”.