It is, without a shred of doubt, where we are headed, and it would be more accurate to say we are already there. Why is it important? Because it opens up a world where the ubiquity of sensors, the ability of analyzing the vast amount of data, and the speed of communications to make it possible to act on that data quickly, changes all our expectations of how we solve problems, which previously seemed too hard.
This post is by no means intended as a potted introduction to either the foundation concepts, or the likely range of consequences of the Internet of Things. In fact, preparing for a professional development workshop for architects in which I was hoping to do that, I found it remarkable how unimaginative and banal almost all of the projections of implications for the built environment are just now. You can get some idea by checking out this infographic, or the relevant sections of 50 Sensor Applications for a Smarter World. The list is the product of a workshop at a conference of experts in computing, so maybe that explains the disappointing ideas.
The archetype of those is the mobile phone, and it may surprise some that the number of SIMM cards sold has long ago exceeded the number of people in the world. Even allowing for inactive SIMMs and multiple accounts, the day we have a mobile for every man woman and child on the planet is quite close.
Already, Indian farmers are moving from subsistence to tradeable surplus, by accessing weather and market information provided by the central government, and urban Indian labourers for hire are bootstrapping themselves to greater earning power by using the phones to cut out middle men in sourcing jobs.
So it isn't an unreasonable projection to suggest that better data on urban utilities will help clean up theft and inefficiency, until the quality and lowered prices of services turn even the current slum dwellers into satisfied paying customers. And it is this jump to the transformative potential of richer data that answers the question of 'why would we embed sensors all over the planet?'
There are many sources, of varying quality, to follow up this topic:
- I found the white paper by Dale Evans for Cisco (the biggest frog in the internet communications pond), to be a good start.
- The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet is Changing Everything
is downloadable as a .PDF here.
- The increasing necessity to acknowledge the interdependence of physical and communication planning is the basis of the blog post What an Urban Planner Should Look Like in the Internet Age by Emily Badger. Read it here.
- There is one monograph I am aware of, but haven't laid my hands on:
Henry, Christopher. Volume # 28: Internet of Things 11 Sep 2011. This edition of the quarterly magazine has a very large number of short articles, with competitively obscure titles, as the blurb says: "not just about framing the issue, but also about indicating a practice in the making: we call it correlation designing".
I just noticed another infographic, in PCMagazine. Check it out here.