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Tech Talk

Internet of Things knows you almost better than you do

6/26/2013

If you’re technologically inclined, you can hook practically anything up to a universal remote. Your entertainment center, house lights, heating-and-cooling system and much more can be accessed at the push of a button. As cool and convenient as that is, it would be really cool if those devices worked on their own without user input, and that is entirely possible thanks to the promise of the “Internet of Things.”

While the Internet we all know and love is a massive network of computers that allows users to share information, the Internet of Things is a network of Internet-connected devices that work together to make everything we use more efficient. The end result is smarter machines that react to our needs based on user-generated data and digital behaviors.

It’s estimated that more than 2 billion devices are currently connected to the Internet and generate data: smartphones and laptops are the obvious examples, but also televisions, household appliances, medical devices and children’s toys. Some estimates have that figure jumping to 50 billion within 15 years.

By 2020, the Internet of Things will connect nearly every electrical appliance and allow them to make decisions for us: City power grids will be able to prepare for periods of heavy energy usage, grocery store systems will map out and order inventory based on peaks and valleys of demand, planes will be networked to read weather data to adjust map flight paths and delay plans, your shoes will send you an email when the soles wear out and automatically purchase a new pair.

Immediately this raises the red flag that the National Security Agency is spying on your TV habits and Internet history, or the Internet of Things is just another way for big corporations to invade your private life. Still, if all that data is going to be generated, it might as well make our lives easier. Maybe I’m being naïve, and this will ultimately result in Skynet taking over the planet and enslaving the human race, but it will more likely end with machines solving traffic jams and your refrigerator guilting you into making healthier choices. CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @ResponsiblyWild.                 

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