Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Internet of Things in Education

This year’s Horizon Report 2012 identifies mobile apps and tablet computing as technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less.  Of the six technologies highlighted in the Horizon Report, two were also noted in the 2011 edition. Game-based learning remains in the two- to three-year horizon, as does gesture-based computing in the four- to five-year horizon.  For the first time, Internet of Things is introduced and is seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.

I'm most intrigued by the report's Internet of Things.  I've noted in the past that the Internet of Things (IOT) will be a driving force in not only web and internet technologies, but will be an ubiquitous part of our lives, seamlessly integrated into our personal lives.  Imagine being able to tag physical objects and being able to connect them to the web.  Ultimately, the IOT extends the way we understand and convey information, thus making objects addressable (and findable) on the Internet is the next step in the evolution of smart objects — interconnected items in which the line between the physical object and digital information about it is blurred.

In the Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku has already pointed this out.  Ubiquitous computing frees the chip from the computer.   Thousands of chips scattered everywhere there is an object, being tagged as it is produced.  Is this exciting or will it just be confusing?  Information specialists will also be important if this technology is to take off.  If the web is one big disorganized mess, what will happen once the physical world expands this messiness?

This has to be an exciting time for libraries.  The Internet of Things is really not so different from what libraries have faced since the card catalogue days: collocating disparate pieces of information from the books to cards.  Eventually it became matching the physical (books) with the digital (OPAC).  Then it evolved to bar codes.  Then RFID with library books.  As a metaphor, the IOT takes this beyond the walls of libraries and extends beyond tagging a book to just about anything that has shape and form.  I encourage you to watch the video above.

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