I still remember growing up watching the Back To the Future trilogy, and just being so excited for the noughties because I could finally get a hoverboard and a house with intelligent devices like keyless doors, phones with video calls and automated curtains. (Oh, and let’s not forget that awesome microwave that turns a tiny palm-sized packet into a fresh pizza in a matter of seconds.)
Great Scott! Some of this is sounding a lot like The Internet of Things! Could we already be there?
The term ‘Internet of Things’ was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton (Duncan, 2014). It refers to the idea of objects being connected to the Internet and becoming tangibly social so that they can do things that previously only humans could have done with an Internet connection (Mitew, 2014).
Duncan (2014) details the possibilities of the Internet of Things, explaining that devices would be able to sense aspects of the real world such as temperature, lighting, presence of people and objects as well as be able to report that real-world data. He concludes this would result in a lot more information being consumed and produced by machines that would communicate between themselves to improve the quality of our lives- or so we hope.
People are either thrilled at the idea of the Internet of Things, or absolutely terrified. Many are quick to recount The Terminator films, while others, like me, are still anticipating owning a house just like Marty McFly’s from BTTF part II.
Bleeker (2006) describes the Internet of Things as “a network in which socially meaningful exchanges take place, where culture is made, experiences circulated through media sharing- only with objects and human agents.”
From this, we can see that human civilisation has certainly already entered the era of the Internet of Things, and it is definitely not something in the far future we see in cyber-utopian (or dystopian, for that matter) films. It is, in fact, hear and now and already making positive advances.
Earlier this week I came across an article on Daily Life that detailed a story about how woman’s autistic son considers Apple’s voice command, Siri, his best friend. The article wonderfully highlighted the benefits of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and above all, it incredibly corroborates Bleeker’s statement of ‘socially meaningful exchanges’ taking place.
The Internet of Things still has a long way to go; we are still waiting on bathroom cabinets to tell us when our toilet paper is running low, a fridge to tell us when we need to update the groceries and a whole house-full of devices that can detect when we have woken up so they can start the coffee machine, switch on the TV, get the shower running and draw the blinds (Duncan, 2014). But do not fear, the Internet of Things is already here.