The Internet of Things

There have been two computer revolutions so far.  The first one was in calculation.  Even at the very beginning with computers the size of buildings their big advantage was they could calculate complex equations in a few hours when it would have taken a huge team of people weeks.  The computers got more powerful and smaller, to the point where most middle class families could have at least one on a desk somewhere.  The next revolution was in communication.  The smartphone in everyone’s pockets is testament to that.  Both these revolutions have largely achieved maturity.  Now, we’re not too excited about new things our computers and phones can do.  Now we look forward to them doing the same basic things better.  The next revolution is things.

The Internet of Things is the newest revolution, just slowly getting started.  It’s harder to define than the others.  Rather than phones or what amounts to fancy abacuses, anything can qualify for the IoT.  It refers to any product whatsoever that has sensors and a CPU in it, often with some kind of wireless communication.  A few examples will help.  If you have a lightbulb that is part of the IoT then you can see some advantages.  It can realize when you get home and immediately turn on as you walk in.  It can change color to match whatever you’re doing.  Your thermostat could be the same.  It could change temperature when you get a few minutes from home, and change based on what the weather is doing.  Cars are probably the single biggest focus.  It’s hard to go more than a few days without hearing some news about self-driving cars.

The key thing to realize is that the IoT is massively overhyped.  The next most important thing to realize is that there are going to be far more unanticipated consequences than the biggest advocates realize.  Over the next few posts we’re going to explore a little more the IoT, and what it all means.

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