What does your toaster say about you? The Internet of Things (IoT), otherwise known as machine-to-machine computing, will play a significant role in 2014 – one which will only expand in future years.
IoT can perhaps be considered the ultimate expression of the Internet Age. Three Italian academics, Luigi Atzori, Antonio Iera and Giacomo Morabito, described it thus: "The basic idea of this concept is the pervasive presence around us of a variety of things or objects – such as Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), tags, sensors, actuators, mobile phones, etc. – which, through unique addressing schemes, are able to interact with each other and co-operate with their neighbors to reach common goals."
In layman's terms, that which was traditionally not connected to the internet is connected with well-understood existing technology of known reliability so that it can communicate and be tracked without a human operator. Author William Gibson' prescient observation that "the future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed" has never been more correct.
According to ABI Research, more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the IoT (sometimes referred to as the 'Internet of Everything') by 2020 and the ramifications for business are staggering. A real-time global picture of a company’s entire inventory down to the last nut or bolt, for example, would become a matter of glancing at a self-updating spreadsheet rather than a gigantic international stock audit which would undoubtedly be obsolete by the time it was finally assembled.
Minute by minute updates on the locations of staff, conditions of shipments or energy efficiency of buildings can be only a click away.
Then again, other ramifications deserve serious consideration as well. PC Pro magazine recently remarked that "when any technology bursts into the mainstream through the back door, those of us who work in and with the IT security industry get more than a little nervous. Just how safe is the Internet of Things? For some, the Internet of Things is a Big Brother scenario straight out of an Orwellian nightmare where your house and the things in it collect data about what you are up to and to send it back to an anonymous central server."
You have been warned. See, for example:
Updates from Microsoft
Attention PC aficionados. By the time you read this, it is likely that Microsoft will have released an update for Windows 8.1 (they're usually worth the wait) that will launch alongside a new, smaller Surface tablet and the launch of Windows Phone 8.1.
It's a mobile phone, but not as you know it. Project Ara is Motorola's attempt at building a smartphone industry where you no longer have to keep buying new smartphones. Instead, you just keep upgrading and replacing individual parts such as the camera element.
According to Technobloom.com: "Motorola has a vision of modular smartphones. These powerful computers in our pockets would no longer have to be bought and then disposed of when they get old. They will be upgradeable, but not in the sense that you have to purchase a new two-year plan along with a brand-new smartphone. If there are any modules that you need to repair, replace or upgrade, you can do so without throwing the entire package into the bin."
Forrester recently released its top technology trends for the next three years, and top of its list was 'digital convergence'. Forrester reckons that the physical and digital worlds are converging and that as a result consumers are locked into the idea that, whether or not they are in the physical world or the digital space, a uniform service is expected.
Elsewhere in its comprehensive report, Forrester avers: "Firms that embrace Big Data concepts, open data, and adopt new adaptive intelligence approaches are creating next-generation smart systems that overcome limitations and create disruptive business innovations." What’s more, Forrester suggests "predictive apps able to sense their environment and respond in real time, anticipate user action and meet users in their moment of need" will be winners in the marketplace.
Observe believes that 2014 will be the year of Wearable Media, from the Pebble smartwatch to the Nymi Wristband – which uses your unique heartbeat to securely authenticate a user's identity – and from wearable computers to the Google Ngram Viewer. The last of these is described by The Atlantic as "a fabulous language-analysis tool", adding that "Ngram allows armchair historians to plot the trajectories of words and phrases over time based on an enormous corpus of data extracted from the Google Books digitisation project".
No doubt some bright CIO will find a use for it…
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