I heard a new phrase recently – “The Internet of Things”. I was at a Social Media seminar and it happened to be the subject title of the final talk of the day. Intrigued, I listened intently as the speaker, sitting meekly at a desk behind a microphone, delivered his vision of the not-too-distant future.
You’ll recall those quirky little films from decades ago where the future was all aluminium and window blinds controlled by remote. Well, that is all very yesteryear now. Not only can we control things remotely, the technology is with us for those things to ‘speak’ to us and let us know how they’re getting on. Your car, for example, can already tell you – via your smart mobile device – that it needs some new petrol or a change of oil. Not only that, it will tell you where the nearest garage is and one that will give you the best deal. Sounds useful and fun and exciting.
Of course, the possibilities afforded by this kind of technology are limitless. In essence, we can plug pretty much anything electronic into the Worldwide Web and our ability to interact with it or control it lies at our fingertips. But it’s not just our things that are controllable. In theory, we can interact with other people’s things or places. Today, you can walk into Starbucks, take a photo of a kind of square barcode thingy on the wall, and your Facebook friends will instantly know where you are. Not only that, you’ll get access to a discount as a reward for advertising your presence. Marketeers are very excited by all this with good reason – it’s a highly effective way of getting your message across and it’s damn cheap too.
It is, at the same time, slightly unnerving. In the old days, we used to have private lives. But now we are pushing the boundaries of privacy further and further with each new status update or tweet. We reveal personal information to strangers with alarming alacrity and yet we still, somehow, feel secure. Is this a false sense of security, though? And are we opening up the floodgates to a new age where anyone clever enough to hack into your personal database can get underneath your skin in minutes? It’s no coincidence that the Chinese government – famous for its ‘Big Brother’ style of governance – is heavily investing into research on this very topic. And when I say heavily, I mean more than all the other governments conducting similar research combined.
So… ‘The Internet of Things’ …watch out for this phrase – you’re going to be hearing a lot about it soon. And it maybe from somewhere you least expect!