You may have come across the term ‘internet of things’ and wondered what it was all about. Did you think that it was something about things having internet? Well, you are close but not quite. The internet of things is the merging of the physical and the digital world. To put it simply, as I heard on a TED talk, suppose you have a chair next to you. A person from across the world wants to know about the chair; if it is occupied, if it can fit a person of some dimension and so on. With the internet of things, it is possible.
Now if you just had your mind blown and probably thought that that would be impossible, let me burst your bubble and say that it very much is possible and it forms the basis of the internet of things. Basically the internet of things means that every object in the world is connected and we can get details about any object from anywhere in the world. It is aimed at connecting everyone in the Earth and making it one whole part.
So how does the internet of things work?
It is very easy to incorporate the internet of things in our everyday lives. For example, let us get back to the chair example. To include the chair in the internet of things, you need to give it a unique ID first in order to differentiate it from the other chairs. Next, we need to give it an ability to communicate, something like wireless connectivity, so that we can identify it from afar. Finally we need to add some sensors to it, so we can identify the environment around it. For this chair, we can have a pressure sensor that will tell us if it is occupied or not. Apart from this, if people have RFID tags on them, using the internet of things, we can not only find out if the chair is occupied but also who is occupying the chair. And all this can be done using our smartphone! If there is a machine in the loop like a TV or something, the internet of things will let us control that machine as well.
Now, all these are already available with us. As far as the RFID tag is concerned, don’t imagine everyone like robots with a tag sticking out of them; there are many microchip-like sensors available with all these features incorporated in them that you won’t even know if you are a part of the internet of things.
As is with every technology, there is a good and evil side to it. The good side of the internet of things is that it is so powerful that it can monitor your heart beats constantly and actually warn you if you are heading towards danger. It can check soil patterns and tell you the best kind of crop to grow in it and the optimum condition to grow them in. And simply, it can let you switch off your stove or oven or any home appliance, when you are at work. The internet of things helps you connect with things. For example, if you sit in front of a computer, you can know many intricate details like the kind of parts used in the system, the person who was accessing it before, the list of people who have accessed it before, the personalities of those people who have accessed it.. the list is endless.
The internet of things is so advanced that you can Google ‘where are my keys?’ and find out where they are.
Basically with the internet of things, you can know everything about every thing in the planet, every person, their whereabouts, likes and dislikes, about the history of a particular non-living thing, you can track the whereabouts of your belongings, predict many things, and so on. With a powerful thing like this, it is not hard to imagine the kind of drastic effects that will take place if misused. But most importantly, although the cause is noble: bringing everyone together as a whole; we are so used to our privacy and our way of things that it is basically an intrusion into things that we would not want to share. It is like a real-life Facebook, except that it is much more advanced than that and the possibilities are endless.
Can we prevent it from happening? Probably not. Primarily, it is already happening: the internet of things has begun to revolutionize the world. But, there is still quite some time left for it to become an everyday reality and by then, many of the roadblocks that you are thinking about would have solutions. All we can do is hope that it is indeed used for good and not evil.
*In order to avoid sounding too technical, the following examples explain the internet of things in a much better way.
Suppose you need to keep an eye on your new born baby. You obviously cannot stay awake all the time and watch her. With the internet of things, it becomes very easy to know what your child is doing, her body temperature, her sleeping pattern, her eating habits, body position, how many times she woke up in the night, and every other micro detail. This helps you be more knowledgeable about her system and forewarns you, in case of any changes that may arise. By knowing beforehand, you can avoid many problems with the baby and focus on watching her grow.
Another example could be as simple as unlocking your front door. Now imagine if someone comes to visit and you have an unavoidable meeting at work. Rather than give your key to your neighbours and inconvenience them to let the visitor in, you can use the internet of things and make life much simple. You can lock and unlock your front door using your smartphone. And, if it is an intruder, you can get to know about it immediately because of the internet of things. The intruder’s tag will be displayed on your phone and you can take action immediately. Now, that’s the stuff movies are made of!
*Image courtesy: Google Images