Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Internet of Things

The basic idea of the IOT is that virtually every physical thing in this world can also become a computer that is connected to the Internet . . .  things do not turn into computers, but they can feature tiny computers. When they do so, they are often called smart things, because they can act smarter than things that have not been tagged.
Imagine a world where cars can "talk" to each other to prevent accidents, or a door that opens based on its recognition of the person in front of it.  Elgar Fleisch is one of the innovators of the future of such technology. His research focuses on the economic impacts and infrastructures of ubiquitous computing.  At the Auto-ID Lab where he and his team develops their work with a global network of universities, an infrastructure for the “Internet of Things” is currently being formulated.   In many ways, there is still a competition between the "internet of things" and the "web of things," and where this is going will be largely determined by experts like Fleish.   In the white paper, The Internet of Things, some important pieces of this vision is already laid out:

1. "Embeddability" - There is a sense that while the internet is based on flashy software, the IOT is invisible.  Whereas the nerve ends of the Internet are fullblown computers that require regular access to the power grid, the nerve ends in the IOT are very small, in many cases even invisible, low-end and low energy consumption computers.  The IOT is about sensing, storing and communicating only a limited amount of information, and often does not even interact directly with human beings.

2.  Networks & Nodes - Although we think we're all "connected," the fact is, we're really not.  While there are about five billion devices such as mobile phones, personal computers, MP3 players, digital cameras, web cams, PDAs, and data servers that serve a world of 6.7 billion people, the reality is that only 1.5 billion are currently using the Internet.   The number of items created each day, consumer products, far exceed anything Internet-related. With an estaimated 84 billion products created each year gives us an indication of just what is not "connected."   With the IOT, think how computer-enabled "things" around us that requires a vastly different and much larger new network infrastructure that is required.

3. Bandwidth - Think the current Internet as a "mile bottleneck" while the IOT as a bandwidth "highway."  Like the early pioneers of the railway, the Internet has been increasing tremendously over recent years with its ability in transporting us on the information highway, with an average household in many countries with a cable-based Internet access with a bandwidth of at least 1 MBit/s.   However, with the IOT, the implementation of emerging technologies such as fiber optics to the home, the bandwidth will soon become as high as 50 - 100 MBit/s.

4. Standards - The academic and industrial communities are currently searching for alternative technologies and standards (e.g. EPC, ucode, IPv6, 6LoWPAN, Handle System, or Internet0) to number and address the "smartening physical world."   There needs to be the identification and addressing of the nerve endings. Because Internet-based identification and addressing schemes require too much capacity to become part of low-end smart things, the IOT's architecture would have to make sure that any tagged object could in principle be accessed by any computer.

5. Machine-centric Universe -  If you think Jeopardy's Watson is a sign of things to come, then IOT would not be far off.  While current Internet-based services are targeted towards human beings as users, (the World Wide Web (WWW), email, file sharing, video, online chat, file transfer, telephony, shopping, or rating), IOT almost completely exclude humans from direct intervention, as the smart things communicate amongst each other and with computers in the Internet in a machine-to-machine way.

6.  Sensing -   Like the economic success story of the Internet, which allowed companies and individuals virtually for the first time to reach out to a global customer base at ridiculously low cost, Web 2.0-based services include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Wikipedia, only made it even richer. The IOT adds another data dimension, as it allows the  physical world, things and places, to generate data automatically -- where the IOT is all about sensing the physical world.  It provides the infrastructure that for the first time enables us to not only measure the world, but to do it in a cost-efficient means of growing a very finely granulated nerve system of nerve endings.  This is hopefully, what the IOT becomes.

1 comment:

Dean Giustini said...

Did you see:

The internet of things: it's big but it's not always very clever…; internet connects not just people but devices – and that's just asking for trouble