The Internet of Things.
In 2014 America, we hear this phrase spoken, blogged about and otherwise bandied about more and more.
But what, exactly, does it really mean?
And is it anything that is really going to mean something in our daily lives…anytime soon?
If The Pew Research Center is to be believed, it will still be another 10 solid years or so before The Internet of Things really means something.
A new report from the Pew Center’s Internet Project predicts that the Internet of Things will be very much a real thing by 2025 – and buzzing and whirring to daily life all around us with a proliferation of tech screens, wearable devices, connected appliances and interactive environments chock full of stuff like sensors and cameras.
The report, entitled “The 2014 Future of the Internet Survey,” is the result of a powerful partnership between the Pew Center’s Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. The findings in the report stem from an eight-question survey of 1,600 people, including some of the world’s top technology experts. Among that group are futurist Paul Saffo, Salesforce.com Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami, Open Tech Strategies partner Karl Fogel and Google Chief Economist Hal Varian.
These and others involved in the study expect the Internet of Things (sometimes also called The Cloud of Things) to be rather ubiquitous by 2025. Thus creating a bold new world of sorts. Or, in the words of the report itself:
“The Internet of Things will thrive by 2025. A hyperconnected world due to embedded computing, wearables.”
Survey respondent Patrick Tucker, author of “The Naked Future: What Happens In a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?” provided an interesting working description of the Internet of Things:
“Here are the easy facts: In 2008, the number of Internet-connected devices first outnumbered the human population, and they have been growing far faster than have we. There were 13 billion Internet-connected devices in 2013, according to Cisco, and there will be 50 billion in 2020. These will include phones, chips, sensors, implants, and devices of which we have not yet conceived.”
Some things are expected to happen sooner than others, of course. Major progress is predicted in the realm of wearable computing between now and 2015. Touch and voice commands for computer interfaces are also expected to rapidly advance – but don’t expect anything like “Blade Runner” replicants or networked giant robot cats to be roaming the streets of America anytime soon.
Factories and supply chains will eventually have sensors and readers that closely track materials in order to speed up and smooth out the manufacturing process, added the report.
Embedded devices and smartphone apps will enable more efficient transportation and provide powerful reads on things like pollution levels within specific communities. Electricity and water will also be delivered more efficiently throughout communities via various “smart systems.”
On a more individual and personal level, the report predicts that people will eventually be able to remotely control everything within their homes – from how their house or apartment is heated and cooled to how often their garden is watered. Many people will also routinely and comfortably wear devices that connect to the Internet and provide them with feedback on their activities, health and fitness. They will also be able to monitor others – such as children or maybe even employees – who are also wearing sensors.
Of course, all of this speculation and prediction naturally opens up a major “can of worms” (or maybe even Pandora’s Box) when it comes to privacy concerns – which sometimes escalate into fears and even outright paranoia – among Americans.
The Obama administration even recently voiced some such concerns around the related area of Big Data, issuing its own report that included a call for limits on how private companies can use the mountains of information collected from consumers online.
Some respondents to the survey voice serious concerns around privacy issues in the coming future, but others express beliefs that “technology could empower people with tools that protect their privacy.”
Susan Etlinger, a technology industry analyst for the Altimeter Group, responded eloquently on this matter within the report, writing:
“We need to put as much effort into understanding privacy and ethics as we do into building better algorithms…It’s time for technologists to collaborate with neuroscientists, social scientists, bioethicists, and others, to promote understanding – to the extent we can ever crack that code. And it’s also time for a healthy dose of humility when it comes to understanding human behavior; we need to keep asking questions, as scientists do.”
What do YOU think about the future of The Internet of Things? Will we see all these sea changes put firmly in place by 2025? Or will people and technology take longer to adopt and adapt to so many new ways of doing and being?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Let us know in the comments section below this blog post.