The Internet of Things: (neologism) “refers to an expanding network of interconnected internet-enabled devices […] also known as M2M or machine to machine”. – The Guardian, Luke Dormehl
Over the years as technology has developed, devices are now able to connect with one another in a multitude of different ways. The Guardian‘s article states that while Internet of Things is still in its early stages of development, by 2020 it is thought that there will be 50billion devices with the ability to link M2M.
Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings, a home automation company, says in the article that technology can now be used to solve daily problems and can be used for security, peace of mind and saving money. Examples he gives are people being notified if doors are left open or heating left on when no-one is home, meaning that the possibility to save money on things like utility bills is possible.
Apple is said to have jumped on the bandwagon by introducing Homekit, an Internet of Things “platform” which will enable consumers to unlock doors and control lighting using an iPhone.
Google is also one of the big players investing into the idea as it is though they paid £1.9billion to Nest Labs, a home automation company wich is already looking into other domestic related operations, including health and security systems.
The article furthers by saying that people can get “hung up” on the “things” themselves, and the main point to think about is the value of the data which these devices will extract in order to function, i.e. an example given is a toothbrush with Internet of Things technology (Kolibree, the world’s first connected electric toothbrush) – data will be given on how a user brushes their teeth and where they need to improve. The idea is to get “real-time feedback” as opposed to waiting for an annual dental check, for example. Renee Blodgett, Vice President of Kolibree states that:
“Data empowers us”.
On the flip side, the article also discusses the risks and dangers of the Internet of Things. With the extraction of data, the question of privacy and how data is monitored is raised. Evgeny Morozov calls the issue “solutionism” which is the idea that serious issues such as global warming and obesity can be solved with the aid of interconnected devices. He discusses in his latest book that “self-tracking [is] the epitome of the modern narcissistic quest for uniqueness and exceptionalism” and openly wonders why people would want to turn their lives into “temples of surveillance”.
I guess if I was to think of the Internet of Things as a very simplified version, the extraction of data is already a present occurrence in a day-to-day environment. For example, many retail outlets now take customer’s details to enhance their shopping experience and recommend clothes for customers according to recent purchases. The same can be said for bookstores and internet retailers such as Amazon. I regularly receive emails informing me of new books or recommended reads I should purchase. I guess one only has to consider Amazon’s whispernet technology; when a customer buys an ebook off Amazon, the file will immediately be wirelessly transmitted to a Kindle device.
Perhaps the next stage in technology for devices such as Kindles could be that they help enhance literacy levels, particularly in primary schools, for example. Or even in institutions for children with learning disabilities. Perhaps if a student has an exam coming up, their device can automatically extract data from recent online searches and purchases to suggest tips and reading material for them. These are just the tip of a massive iceberg of possibilities and ideas which I cannot even imagine.
With The Bookseller‘s FutureBook Hackathon taking place in London this coming weekend (14th and 15th June) – of which I shall be volunteering at – it shall be interesting to see what the technology companies and teams in attendance shall suggest in terms of the future of publishing…