The Connectivity of The Internet of Things (IoT)

There are approximately over 7 billion people walking the global, almost half of which – 320 billion – are internet users. Just over 270 million of them are within the United States. As our worldwide connectivity continues to grows at an unfaltering rate, not only will people have more connection to people -contributing to more opportunities for economic growth and global collaboration- but more animals, devices and “things” will also be embedded with technology, thus leading to the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT).

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

IoT is essentially a gigantic network of connected “things” (gadgets, cars, engines, computers, pens, glasses, cities, etc). Gartner describes it as:

The IoT is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”

The concept itself signifies the evolution of a global culture; the IoT represents the increasing connectivity among machines, people, and things. It is becoming a new “age/era/ epoch”, another stage of creativity and transformation in human history- The Dark ages, Post Modernism, & now The Internet of Thing.

How does the IoT work

Technology is proliferating at an unprecedented rate. As Google Fiber speeds up broadband in smaller cities, and digital smart collars expands connectivity to more rural and nomadic areas, it is projected that by 2020 there will be 5 billion internet users, out of a global population of 8 billion. In just 5 years more than 2/3 of the population worldwide will be plugged-in. Internet speed is now being suggested as a Human right on Google’s fiber optics website. Their site contains an uploaded video of Kista Grammatis, from A Human Right organization, discussing how increased internet connectivity, reaching more areas of the globe, can help communities educate, connect, grow, and take initiative for themselves.

So will internet connectivity be added to the list of human rights: the right to life, freedom of expression and internet connectivity? In that case, the era of the “IoT” would then be manipulating the definition of human rights, traditionally referring to something that is not possessed by anyone, but the rights inherent to all beings, and therefore would demonstrate how  technology is largely contributing to a global etymological shift.

To help understand the whys, hows, pros and cons of the Internet of Things, I have created some bulleted lists below to give readers a quick glance at the ins-and-outs of the IoT:

IoT at a quick glance

What Has Enabled the IoT?

  • Broadband internet  becoming increasingly more available and accessible
  • Decreasing costs
  • More devices
  • More built-in censors and GPS
  • Increase in Smart Phone sales

How will the IoT effect the future

  • Everything we do, from how we work to how we live is going to be increasingly affected by this concept
  • Any device with a power button will be connected to the internet, making all devices “smart”
  • By 2020 over 26 billion “things” will be connected
  • Changing relationships from machine-to-machine to People-to-people, people-to-things, and things-to-things will increase

Some Opportunities with the IoT

  • Reduces the need to multi-task on menial activities
  • Redirects the mundane everyday tasks to “smart” devices and allots humans to more complex tasks, tasks that we can’t even imagine at the moment because they have yet to be created.
  • Reduces waste and improves efficiency for Transportation and Cities- The IoT with be making smarter cities
  • New job opportunities
  • Provides endless opportunities and connections.

The Challenges of the IoT

  • Increased security issues
  • Privacy and data sharing problems
  • An overproduction of Data
  • Data storage challenge

Sources:

http://www.business2community.com/tech-gadgets/tech-trends-cant-ignore-business-2015-01165769

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/05/13/simple-explanation-internet-things-that-anyone-can-understand/

http://www.census.gov/popclock/

http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/media-stocks-fall-after-discovery-report-stirs-advertising-worries-1201347664/

 

By: Kayleigh Stack

Tech Blogger & Market Researcher

 

Herd-Mentality: Sheep as Wifi Hotspots

Just the other day, on NPR I was listening to some local business owners in North Carolina’s rural area complain about their internet connection. They discussed the prolonged amount of time it takes to upload a small video and how this disconnect directly effects their business’s sales. The community, bringing this issue to the attention of their local phone company, requested for more cell towers to be built. The sentiment was that a faster broad-band would equate to more economically thriving businesses, and further, be contributing to increased financial stability in the community. Some of the store owners lamented on how difficult it was to stay competitive in the market when their web presence was inferior to those of their competitors, due to a challenge that is, for the most part, out of their hands.

No Wifi No Business…..

Since it is nearly impossible these days to have a business without a website, limited internet access does in fact have a direct correlation to a business’s success, and a business’s success does relate to a community’s economic health. More and more remote, small town stores have found ways to survive in communities with limited resources with the help of internet sales. However, with a lack of attention placed on rural areas without fast broadband- which phone companies often justify by arguing that most rural towns don’t have a large enough demographic for more cell towers to be viable- small town businesses are suffering.  I question if the phone companies invested anytime into contemplating how the demographic may (or may not) be directly related to the lack of connectivity, at least in this day-and-age. Wouldn’t more cell towers and increased broadband, give rise to population, clearing up the initial problems that prevented the building of such technology in the first place? I guess in this case, they find it important for the chicken to be in place before the egg.

Can Sheep provide Wifi?

But wait! There may be a solution! It seems the lack of connectivity is being solved in rural areas. In fact, without tampering with the natural landscape, there are plans in place to utilize the exact environment and species that already exist. And I am not talking about those ridiculous fake trees that have been erected on highways, which by the way, look like a cell tower had intentional decided to wear a tree costume because it was getting a little bashful about its’ slender figure. No, none of that. I’m referring to animals. More specifically, sheep! It seems as though rural North Carolina was not the only community commiserating about broadband issues. Research seems to have been underway for some time to find a solution for those still living in an antiqued time-capsule. And low-and-behold the answer had been right underneath their (cough) fork the entire time! What better way to increase connectivity than to create far reaching, and roaming, WiFi Hotspots with other members on the community. And even better, community members that so often go unnoticed- yes I am still talking about sheep.

Digital Smart Collars

At Lancaster University, researchers have recently been granted $260,000 to test digital “Smart” Collars (why does everything have to be “smart”?) on sheep! And not only will these sheep have the fastest connection, but with the smart collar rings attached to their ears, they look like a furry version of Mr. T! But all jokes aside, the initial purpose of these “smart” collars was to simply track the sheep’s whereabouts, along with the weather conditions. However, recently researchers have discovered the collars could provide an secondary purpose -bringing WiFi hotspots to rural areas. A “mesh network” can be created by a herd of sheep, transmitting connectivity across expansive distances. There has even been interest in bringing this technology to nomadic communities in Scandinavia

So far the research is still in its infancy stages. However, if it does end up coming into fruition, the community in North Caroline might have other things to worry about. Overly connected cheep? Bionic Ram invasion? One can only hope.

Source:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wi-fi-connected-sheep-badgers-help-8630010

 

By Kayleigh Stack

Blogger & Researcher

RFID chips: Getting Chipped or Jibbed?

There has been a growing amount of RFID (radio frequency identification) chips used in the past decade, specifically in healthcare, academic institutions, and domestic animals. The push for these tiny glass grain-sized chips has been to, in theory, add to the ever growing era of convenience. They are advertised as providing efficiency, track-ability, along with practicality to peoples lives. The use of chips have claimed to track lost pets, prevent truancy in high schools, as well as help to avoid identity theft and security issues in healthcare. However, I can’t help to question that, along with the supposed claim of preventing identity theft, there is the undeniable question of privacy issues. Our privacy concerns are continuing to be challenged as companies and clubs are now not only “chipping” objects but also their employees and club members.

By attaching radio frequency tags to both people and objects, inevitably the debate of ethics comes into conversation. How much do we want others- whether others means our loved ones, employers, or government- knowing our location at all times? Moreover, how much do we want personally sensitive information made more readily available? And by personally sensitive information, we are talking about the things beyond your SSN- the things you think no one knows or sees. Truman show? Mind control? 1984? Dare I bring up Stalin and Hitler? Yes these are conspiracies, however, one question continues to present itself- just how far off are we from such methods of control?

Reasons for using RFID Chips

The Healthcare industry is claiming that RFID chips are resulting in better patient care, to be able to correctly identify patients faster and improve safety. Seems pretty innocuous. The improving safety part is more ambiguous because the sites where I was doing research did not disclose exactly how the chip would be improving safety, however they claimed, unequivocally, it does. Fine, I thought, improving safety I suppose seems harmless enough. However, I did become more suspicious upon discovering that these chips are now being used by a Swedish company on their employees -rather, in their employees- purely for convenience reasons. Those reasons include -opening doors, unlocking photocopiers, and paying for lunch.

Are grain-sized microchips really making our life any better?

The drive for convenience in our culture may be at the expense of independence, at the expense of rational, smart, informed choices. Does the future consist of us voluntarily (remember: people are doing these things voluntarily at the moment- perhaps with little forethought) relinquishing ourselves all personal responsibility of health, safely, and free speech for that of efficiency? Hasn’t the causation of cancers been inextricably linked to different forms of technology? At the end of the day is injecting a grain-sized microchip under the skin in order to wave a hand to open a door really easier than just taking a card or key out of your pocket and twisting your wrist in a similar fashion? Okay, so maybe you’ll shave a few seconds off with chip, and it could be argued that time is our only real resource, however, the next question that comes to mind is what are the long-term repercussions and are we truly saving time or are we adversely affecting our bodies and independence, in exchange for, cough, laziness?

I believe, and yes this is extremely subjective on my end, the worst use of these chips have been found to be utilized among club members in Barcelona. Where, due to many of the members ambling about in bikinis and trunks, there was a decision made by the club owner to offer VIP members a chance to do away with cumbersome bags and wallets and get a RFID chip implanted in their arm to enhance their sumptuous lifestyles.

Micro Chips are Intuitive?

One company is advertising the use of the hand chip as “Intuitive”. I would consider an injection of a human programmed, laboratory built, inorganic material anything but inborn, innate or natural- far from intuitive. Is this going to change the course of evolution? Are we shifting away from survival of the fittest, to survival by design? While the Swedish company implementing these chips on their employees at the moment claim they are doing so to get some foresight into the future to see how chips work, before governments and big corporations adopt them for use mandating all citizens to wear them, at the moment to only be using this technology to open doors and use photocopiers, in my eyes, is hazardously using powerful instruments as superfluous tech candy.

 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31042477

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3697940.stm

 

Kayleigh Stack

Blogger, Marketing Assistant & Research Associate

A Future Where Reality Is Not So Real

Lately, or not so lately, there has been a great amount of buzz around Virtual Reality. However, I would rather not talk about the tech itself -since I’m sure there are plenty of articles out there about that- but rather, I would like to discuss the philosophical side that this form of tech may be bringing into question in decades to come.

In this post, I would like to introduce another buzzword that has been in the tech world for quite some time now. What that word is you may wonder? If you guessed Singularity, you were right. For the people out there reading and seeing this term for the first time, allow me to give you some quick background on this term.

Singularity

For a long time, this term has been used by mathematicians and physicists. However, more recently in history, Singularity made its way into the tech industry. It is often described as a point in time when technology will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization. In a much simpler way to explain it, Singularity is the point in the future where human life as we know it will be changed beyond possible imagination.

If you have heard of this before, then you know that Singularity mostly revolves around A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). There are many predictions regarding when machines will take control over humanity. In fact, there is a great documentary from the 80’s on this subject. And to clarify, by documentary I mean movie, and by movie a mean Terminator .But let’s not get too distracted here because, if I remember correctly, this post is about V.R., not A.I.

As someone that works at Ruckbau, a company that specializes in Machine learning and path finding software, I’m pretty confident to say, although sorry to disappoint, that machines will not be taking over the world anytime soon. At least for the “first Singularity”. I see more chances of V.R. being the first tipping point in society. Oh, and what is the name of that other late 90’s documentary? You know, the one with Mr. Anderson? Oh yea! The Matrix. Possibly the worst human nightmare as far as technology goes -V.R and A.I combined together. But once again, lets not talk about A.I. and just focus on V.R.

A future where reality is not so real:

We are approaching the foreboding era of  having the possibility of implanting chips directly into our brains. Something close to giving your brain the right stimulus to trick you into feeling and seeing things that do not physically exist. With that being said, I don’t want to get into what may or may not be a possibility, but rather discuss what is already a “reality”.

The Oculus Rift headset

Last year I purchased an Oculus Rift headset (second generation), and I got to experience how V.R. really works. Even though the tech is “not there yet”, it is very obvious that it will become more and more refined in the years to come, eventually allowing a full submersive experience. This doesn’t mean you will be able to touch and feel things; however you will be able to stand and walk around a room that can be transformed into infinite possibilities.

Here is the part where the philosophical aspect of the post comes in. It order to describe it best,  I will refer to a very simple thought experiment, I like to call- “The Ocean experience”.

To  start the thought experiment, we first need to set up a “real” environment. So here we go:

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon during the summertime. You are provided with a backyard,  a beach chair (think- the kind that fully reclines and allows you to even sleep on it if you want to), of course a bucket full of your favorite beer, and your V.R headset. You are also provided with NO time or money to travel to those amazing caribbean beaches that you want to explore so bad.

Now, lets turn your real setup into a “not ‘real’ but very real experience”. You place your bucket full of beer next to your beach chair and now all you have to do is sit, recline and put your V.R. headset on. A few seconds later you are transported to a beautiful, very relaxing caribbean beach.

Are you there? Well, the first answer that comes to mind when you think about it is, no. You are in the middle of your backyard. In spite of your first instincts, I would like you to put more thought into the question and reconsider. Think about this, you are now a few beers deep, and you can feel the heat of that summer sun on your skin. You look around and all you see is ocean, sand, some people nearby and maybe the occasionally seagull. So I ask you again, are you there? Once more, I’m sure you want to answer no. But isn’t it really, at least to some extent (here is where the real debate starts), nothing less than what your brain is able to perceive and process? So how can you tell, until the moment that nature calls and you are in need to take your V.R. set off your head and run to the bathroom, you weren’t “there”.

Chip Implant…Reality?

What’s going to happen when/if that chip implant becomes a “reality”? Then you could create the right stimulus to trick your body to feel the sand in between your toes. You could tell your brain that the smell of grass is actually the smell of ocean.

About a year ago, when I bought my V.R. set, I had an argument with my dad about reality. He kept saying that no matter how “real” it feels, it’s not “reality”. This is where I disagree.

So I would like to ask you this question: If you feel that sand between your toes, you smell the ocean  breeze, and you see the ocean -does it matter where you physically are?

 

Forget about machines taking over humanity. “Smart Machines” created by humans, at least at this point in time, are actually not so ‘Smart’. And it will take another 40 or 50 years before they are somewhat “Smart”. However, I do see a future where you’ll be choosing your own “reality”.


All I can do at this point is just sit here and ponder about the infinite possibilities…

Fede Pisani

Technical Blogger