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The Internet of Things – Things Sharing…

The internet of things is a term that before writing this essay, was something that I had never even heard of before. This is a new type of internet and it is not one that connects human beings together but one that connects things together, so they can share experiences, senses, and data.

According to Bruce Sterling, the internet of things connects everything under one roof, being able to send and receive data, but also where things exchange data through technology called arphids (RFID):

‘Given an internet of things, you can read your arphids anywhere. Via net, via cell phone, via satellite – it would seem like sky’s the limit.’ (Sterling, 2005, p. 92)

Arphids, which is a technology I was not familiar with, are known as RFID, which does sound like arphid and Bruce Sterling refers them to this in his book, are small chips which are attached to objects and they collect and store data. According to Bruce Sterling:

‘An RFID is a very small ship of silicon with a tiny radio antenna. An RFID tag can be as small as half-a-millimeter square and no thicker than a paper price tag.’ (Sterling, 2005, p. 88)

This makes RFID very easy to attached to any object, enabling them to be communicate with anything with the same technology. This is what is the Internet of Things is all about, things with technology being able communicate and exchange data, sense, and touch. I wanted to find out what communicating with senses meant, especially since it was objects being talked about.

To start at the basis of the Internet of Things, per the research I have carried out, is that you add other key components to the mix, senses, communication, and touch. It allows objects to easily share meaningful data that could be read and interpreted not only by other ‘Things’ but by humans also. This would allow things to collaborate with each other, according to Benson Hougland:

It’s about connecting things and so it’s named the Internet of Things. Ok so connecting things to the internet big deal, right? Well it kind of is and here’s why, because things can start to share their experiences with other things. Whoa wait what? How’s does that work, right? Well it works like this, you take things and then you add the ability to sense and communicate and touch and control. And there you get an opportunity for things to interact and collaborate with other things. (Hougland, 2014)

This is where (RFID) comes into play, it opens the possibility for a network, on a global scale, which then allows them to do so. That is where the similarities between people and things appear again. RFID communicates with other things in its environment using senses, in places such as your home, which is something we do as human beings and that is where the two start too cross paths.

There is one major advantage of having an Internet of things according to Bruce Sterling:

‘The primary advantage of have THE INTERNET OF THINGS is that I no longer inventory my possessions inside my own head. They’re inventoried through an automagical inventory voodoo, work done far beneath my notice by a host of machines. I no longer to remember where I put things, Or where I found them. Or how much they cost. I just ask. Then I am told with instant real-time accuracy.’  (Sterling, 2005, p. 93)

So in its first form the internet of things can be made up from things around your house, helping you with everyday tasks. Losing your keys, finding the TV remote, or finding your glasses. We are already seeing examples with this technology such as Google Now and Siri. Voice recognition starts to become personal to you and before you know it, you are asking your home where a thing is located. There is other advantages, such as having a medical band on your wrist, which talks to your local hospital when you are in trouble, something in which Benson Hougland discusses in his video:

‘On so I reach over to my phone and I pull it up and sure enough there’s a message it says I’m having high blood pressure and my breathing is erratic and it suggests that I take two aspirin right away. And then goes on to say this is all my vital signs have been recorded and electronically transmitted to my medical provider. So back at the back at the hospital the doctors already evaluating my data and in his professional opinion I need to get in the hospital right away. So we electronically dispatches EMT directly to my home including pertinent data about my current medical situations’.. (Hougland, 2014)

So not only is the internet of things sharing the experiences and senses of each thing, it is sharing how you could feel in that moment. Which then shares those senses or experiences to get help across the other side of town, to a hospital. Then suddenly, your home is looking after you, making sure not only that it remembers where you put something down but keeping you alive, which we are seeing examples with, with the health ID on our smartphones or the health bands which record our vitals.

Discussing a smart home, where the surrounding things are in the house communicating, in The Social Shaping of Technology, Ann-Jorunn Berg states that:

All that is new about these ‘smart houses’ is the integration itself, linking different appliances in a central local network variously called a ‘small area network’ (SAN), ‘homebus’, ‘domotique’ or ‘house-brain’. (Wajcman & MacKenzie, 1999, p. 306)

This is interesting to think that when an Internet of things starts to appear in your home, it would surely start to form some sort of central network, where all the things would communicate, share senses and data. So, anything with an RFID in its hardware would make itself presentable to the local network, storing its data in the ‘house brain’ and maybe, just maybe making you as an individual care less about where you put your things down, since you have another ‘house brain’ doing the thinking for you. I then wondered if this could be done on a larger scale, which IBM seem to think it can be.

In the video, which as I have said already, has embedded chips around us already, in everyday things. Things share large amounts of data, that allows them to better understand each other, although I have only considered it around my house. However the video from IBM gives us the example of cars exchanging information with the manufacturer:

‘The platform is constantly gathering and storing thousands of bits of information from Rebecca’s car and hundreds of thousands of cars like hers building and historical record in a secure database. The manufacturers added rules and logic to the platform so when Rebecca’s car sends a signal that her brake fluid has dropped below the recommended level the platform that triggers an alert in her car. The manufacturer also uses the platform to create and manage applications that solve specific issues. In this case the manufacturer can deploy an application on the platform called the asset management system. This application oversees all their customer’s cars on the road as well as all the parts in their warehouses. It uses the data from Rebecca’s car to offer her a potential appointment time to service her car directions to the nearest certified dealer and a coupon for the service. What’s more the app will ensure that Rebecca’s brakes are covered under warranty that the correct replacement part is ordered and then sent to the dealership so it is ready when she arrives.’ (IBM, 2015).

So, just like the home or ‘smart home’, cars could also exchange data by talking to the manufacturer and that in turn tells the driver that something is wrong. This is different however as it turns it into a worldwide platform, sending information to a lot of people, manufactures and companies with the relevant data. It makes it interesting, as the things are not only in a small area network, they are on a wider platform, telling people that a task needs to be carried out. It made me question, is this more serious, as we are no longer being inquisitive about our own cars, I mean misplacing our car keys is one thing, but misplacing our car? That is something else.

So, in its final form the Internet of Things, it is very much a worldwide platform. It is so broad that the examples I have came across are impressive, from early warning systems, to body monitoring gadgets which could alert a local hospital if you were in any medical trouble. That however got me thinking that if these ‘Things’ were doing all these recordings of us, making sure we are healthy, keeping track of our keys, even our car and even being able to tell alert entire countries to natural disasters. It makes me wonder, if all it will take in the future will be a quick google search or just simply relying on your gadget as you do not want to think about your network at all or the machines doing to work behind the scenes, which Bruce Sterling says on the matter:

‘So I no longer hunt anxiously for my missing shoes in the morning, I just Google them. If machines can crunch the complexities, their interfaces make my relationship to objects feel much simpler and more immediate.  (Sterling, 2005, p. 94)

Although this was written in 2005, which is something I keep forgetting, it is almost like Sterling knew the future. I think it is important that we as humans do not lose touch with us thinking for ourselves and I think the internet of things although is a cool concept, at the same time is kind of worrying. As it almost makes us turn into zombies in a sense, not really thinking for ourselves, asking simple questions and while it is convenient, I think that it is really thought provoking. It also raises questions about security, will we be able to integrate ourselves? Never mind the technology itself!