Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Internet of Things is taking over the world

Credit: Carlos Asmat
Machines communicating with machines

The Internet of Things refers to machines' ability to communicate with one another through the internet and independent of human interaction.

Technological context
Our family has two Macbook Pros, an iPad, an iTouch, and two iPhones. How did we ever get to a point where digital devices have so much to do with our lives and the way we work?

When I was in Middleton High School in Southwest Idaho, 1989, not a single student or teacher had a cellphone or laptop, and very few had basic computers - more like complex calculators no one could use. Our school had a computer room, and the drives for the computers were cassette players. No, not 8-track tapes smart asses. But, the kind of tapes that still exist here and there today.

The loud speaker intercom that the office used for announcements was high tech to us, and if you needed to call someone, you used the pay-phone down the hall, a modern luxury. If you were to say the word "iPhone" at that time, people would think you were imitating Spielberg's E.T.

Now, about 78% of kids have access to at least a laptop and a smartphone. The world would shut down without these devices, and just imagine if the whole Internet were destroyed - could we survive? As the human species, we evolve, but our cultures evolve along with us. Technology represents a major feature of who we are and how we operate, and it is evolving. We can no longer separate ourselves from the technology we use.

Cultural and technological evolution
Remember, culture evolves, and since technology is a major part of society, it is the fastest evolving system ever. Nothing else even comes close, and the evolution is exponential. In other words, not only is it the fastest, but as time goes on, it evolves quicker, each new technology making it easier to develop more advanced devices.

The outlook is shocking even by the standards of science fiction. People in IT are referring to the rapid shift in communication technology, as the "Internet of Things." Brian S Hall reports that:

A new survey of IT decision makers ... [concluded that] the rise of machine to machine (M2M) communications - more commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" - is on the cusp of transforming our homes, our cities and how business is conducted.

We have moved beyond human to machine interaction (H2M) to M2M. The unfortunate phrasing of this quote leaves out humans altogether. I suggest we adopt new language here that puts humans in a functional role, even if just in name. How does human to machine to machine sound? H2M2M.

Spread the word on that will you? Maybe it will catch. It's downright spooky to leave humans completely out of the equation. If we are on the cusp of a transformation, please let us be at the center. Perhaps that is just human arrogance.

Current status and forcast
The Internet of Things refers to the way devices are able to communicate, interact, and affect each other through the internet that weaves all these machines together. Part of the idea is that we can better keep track of and manage our "things." The Internet of Things is:

A term first used in 1999 refers using radio frequency in order to keep track of daily objects through barcodes or things of the sort. ... the continuing growth in technology allows you to keep better track of everything that is important. ... the one thing that is pretty much universal is technology, and the advances that come with it are constantly moving forward. Making it much easier to keep track of the things that are important in your life.

Technology has moved from barcodes to other, more complex means of identification which make the advanced communication between devices possible. Moving toward 2020 and beyond, there will be an everincreasing ability for machines to communicate through the internet. This is the exponential growth of the evolving system of H2M2M, and if I think about that growth too much, I think my brain will form a black hole. describes a vision of what this might look like:

In theory the internet of things will take the need to remember pretty much unnecessary. Everything will be done electronically. From text messages sent directly from your plants to let you know they are hungry. To your bed notifying your coffee=maker of a restless nights sleep, telling your coffee maker to make your brew a little stronger that day.

The internet of things will allow us to soon be able to have apps for our cars, refrigerators, thermostats and pretty much all of our daily electronics. While communication between your bed and coffee maker may be a long way off, controlling most everything in your daily life is closer than one might realize.

The big picture is that all things digital will be interconnected, as if the surface of the earth were like a giant brain and nervous system. The point at which this becomes a full reality is referred to as the singularity, "the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through technological means." Superintelligence means a global brain and nervous system that operates in large part autonomously (which is why I want to keep the H in H2M2M).

Many claim that the singularity, the point at which the superintelligence is fully realized, is quite near, and I do not doubt them. Nor am I techno-phobic, afraid that technology will take over our lives. Oh yes, tech is taking over our lives, I'm just not afraid of it.

About the Writer

I am a former English professor, turned writer, but my secret passions include web design, social media, technology, Spanish, neuroscience, construction, landscaping, and bonsai on the side. I love to blog at, and I also write for BC Blog, Technorati, Blog Critics, and Social Media Today.
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