In 1999, Ashton said it best in this quote from an article in the RFID Journal:
"If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things - using data they gathered without any help from us - we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best".
Improvement in our time
Think of it this way: Back in the 20th Century, Humans needed a way to be more productive in terms of their work output and efficiency. The solution? Out came the Industrial Revolution, which we should thank for all the machines we utilize today that continue to lunge us forward towards improvement in the quality of life altogether. Without it, Personal Computers (PCs) simply wouldn't exist. The revolution paved the way for our forefathers to utilize the inventions they made in order to do more worthwhile things, thus creating innovation and a huge breakthrough at the time. Work was now much easier and things were done faster and cleaner. It was truly a momentous occasion in the history of mankind; the concept of scraps of metal doing work for us became a reality and would prove to be vital for the next century or so.
Now, fast forward a few decades later to our time and age. We are considered a much more 'advanced' civilization in terms of the way we think. Since the beginning of the revolution, improvements have constantly been made on a daily basis and we now have more resources to produce more powerful and believe it or not, much more impactful inventions. Since the birth of the Internet in the early '00s, the world has drastically changed. Information may now be accessed from anywhere in the world, anytime and from the convenience of our homes. Gone are the days when we have had to pay big sums of money in order to get things done, because there were so-called 'specialists' that work on specific tasks that we were not capable of due to lack of education and knowledge on the matter. A simple click of a button now gives us access to this knowledge and more, rendering them somewhat useless. But of course, humans will find a way to adapt, as always. Instead of loathing the internet for taking jobs all over the world, the world just learned to go with it and instead utilized the net to their advantage. Business once again went booming and this time, with the aid of the internet. It has created so many opportunities for the global community from not only a business standpoint, but with communication and accessibility as well. This time, we take it a step further. Machines are much more compact, affordable and user-friendly and are accessible to everyone. These products of the revolution a few decades ago are stepped up a notch and now we are attempting to make them all 'communicate' with each other so they know when, how and what to do given the circumstances.
This brings us to the reality we will soon be a part of in the very near future; The Internet-of-Things, or IoT for short, meaning everything around us is connected to the internet and can be used to improve our lives. It is panning out exactly how the Industrial Revolution panned out; with humans needing to be more productive and efficient with their work and creating a groundbreaking solution for such. In essence, IoT aims to connect the world (as the photo above states) in various ways using the internet. This idea began with smartphones integrated with bluetooth and wifi connectivity, with which people learned to integrate into their daily lives in more ways than one. Case in point, home appliances can now be directly controlled with cellular phones with the use of the internet. Drones that carry cameras are controlled via the internet. The music we listen to is shared to others by way of -- yup, you guessed it right, the internet. This is all made possible by open-source documentations scattered all over the world's servers which are then replicated, or tweaked by the people using them to fit their needs, thus creating a neuron-like network in which each part has a specific function that may be the same, or slightly different depending on the needs of the individuals utilizing them. Websites such as element14 and Instructables provide much insight to the world of IoT, and has been garnering the interest of many individuals as of late. Technology of this stature is nothing new. In fact, it has been present for well over half-a-decade, with Satellites setup in space being the prime examples of such. The only difference between now and then? Practically anyone can access the data needed to do so. From this sprouted many different products and innovations, now being spearheaded by big-time players in the digital world, namely Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple. These giants have sensed that the tides have been changing, and so they are now full-on trying to keep at par with the revolution for the average consumers' use. Enthusiasts have been creating their own systems with popular platforms such as the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino to name a few. Documentation and full source codes are available to replicate or make changes to as found necessary.
What does this mean?
In the future, anything that can be connected, shall be connected. Devices will be "talking" to each other in order to make life much easier for us. Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana, for example, are one of the first commercialized IoT utilities available today. They are able to tell you to wake up at this time, route your path going to work by communicating with satellite GPS, and even notify you if there is danger in the household. Imagine how convenient it would be to have them connected to other internet-enabled devices. Say your phone wakes you up at 7 am, and then notifies your wifi-enabled coffee brewer to whip a cup up for you. Woudn't that be extremely nifty? On a much broader scale, a smart city can be produced. Singapore has recently launched a "Smart Nation" campaign in which they aim to interconnect the country in order to be the most technologically advanced nation in the entire world. Take a look at the graphic below to see what it might look like:
So, how does it affect us?
In reality, IoT allows for multiple opportunities and connections to happen, most of which we probably don't fully know the impact of today. Altogether, it isn't difficult to see why it is such a hot and trending topic amongst scientists and enthusiasts alike, as it has become a gateway for numerous opportunities, but also many hindrances. A big issue with this is the security. Having literally billions of smart devices being connected can't be good for our own privacy, can it? Take for example someone hacked into your refridgerator. That would mean he/she would have access to your whole household and your entire network in general. Companies are also big targets for such. Data can be freely passed on and it would spell disaster if it goes into the wrong hands. It is such a hot topic today that concerns and conversations will only escalate as time passes by. We will need to find a way to keep tabs on the data being generated in a safe and non-conforming manner. Talks will go on for years to come, and hopefully innovators will come forward with solutions to these problems and answers to these questions. For now, it's a good idea to get a headstart on this. It's time for us to figure out how we can be in with the trend by studying up on them and creating projects of our own, thereby becoming contributors to this brand-new worldwide phenomenon I like to call the "Modern Day Industrial Revolution."