Reboot: What the Internet of Things Means for the Future

By Bruce Harmon, Ph.D.

CTU Computer Science Degree - The Internet of ThingsAs semiconductor geometries continue to shrink, it’s become possible to pack more and more intelligence into smaller and smaller spaces, like chips. Add to that the explosion in cellular telephony coverage and bandwidth, and you have the possibility for enhanced machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and activation; that is, the Internet of Things (IoT)!

Today’s automobile already exhibits many of the IoT features via wired interconnection between embedded computers. But that is just a start.

It is very desirable today that each machine have its own Internet Protocol (IP) address and that the channel be wireless, either via Wi-Fi or cell tower. Other communications technologies will soon emerge as well. The now rapid adoption of IPv6 enables more orders of magnitude of IP addresses than the legacy IPv4, and that sets the stage for the proliferation of those addresses to individual machines.

Voila! To borrow an older term, you have cellular autonoma – machines that can operate independently of human intervention. From the outset, I expect these machines will be programmed to perform what they do. An often used example is that your car will pass a sensor or compute that it is near your home and, knowing that you are returning from work, will signal the household thermostat set point to change, command the oven to preheat and activate the wine dispenser to pour you a glass of wine.

But it need not stop there. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), as evidenced by the performance of the IBM Watson on “Jeopardy” and the subsequent IBM commitment to use it in furthering research in these fields, suggest machines may be deployed in ways that let them adapt to their surroundings and experiences, and to change their behavior in response. And that might not always be a good thing. Remember HAL 9000 in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”? “Open the pod bay doors, HAL!”

However, I think most will agree that the Internet of Things is an exciting development, worthy of everyone’s attention.

Image Credit: Flickr/gualtiero