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Is The Internet of Everything Really, Everything They're Cracking it Up to Be?

Courtesy of Flickr
By Carl Weiss

“Open the pod bay door, HAL.”

Everybody who has ever seen the sci-fi classic 2001 A Space Odyssey remembers the climactic faceoff between Astronaut Dave Poole and HAL, the artificially intelligent computer, which ran the spacecraft and ultimately tried to do in its crew. What made the scene so riveting was the fact that it was clearly the computer and not the astronaut who had the upper hand.  The reason that I bring up this bit of trivia is due to the fact that when I hear all the talk circulating in the media about the “Internet of Everything,” I am immediately reminded of this pivotal scene where a computer that was built and programmed specifically to assist human beings inevitably does just the opposite.

We Live in a Brave New World

A world where innocence is lost at an earlier age and bad guys are run amuck on the web.  However, we also live in a world full of new things, exciting capabilities and wondrous opportunities. The Internet has brought this sea change into our lives and for now, there’s no turning back.
Internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Internet was young, there was enthusiasm about being able to connect to people and places worldwide.  As the worldwide web grew, so did the amount of people and things connected to it. Somewhere during the past couple of years the sheer amount of devices that have become web-enabled has gotten to the point where there are more things connected to the Internet than people.  As everything from computers, to cell phone, to appliances, to car manufactures and even clothing designers begin to create internet-enabled features on their products, the internet starts to take on a life of its own. More and more things are connecting to the web. What all of us need to realize is that everything we do, everyplace we go, as well as how we live, shop, play and learn, have been fundamentally changed due to its existence.  The question we are going to attempt to answer in this article is, "Are You Ready for the Internet of Everything?"

The Internet of Everything

Lenovo IdeaPad U8 MID
Lenovo IdeaPad U8 MID (Photo credit: Cory M. Grenier)
To the uninitiated, the Internet of Everything was credited to Kevin Ashton who coined the term in 1999.  At its core, what it refers to are devices that in essence can sense their environment and communicate with other devices as well as with their owners and other people.  Already there is a smattering of smart appliances on the market, such as smart thermostats that automatically adjust the temperature based upon the user’s schedule and smart refrigerators that text you when you are running low on milk. But what most people are unaware of is the fact that appliance manufacturers, car builders and even textile producers are all looking to jump onto the bandwagon.

The Reason: Money and Access

1.      In the first place, both the costs and size of sensors, controllers, power supplies, memory and wireless transmitters is falling at a rapid pace.  (Combining these components into an existing appliance or piece of apparel is already below $30 in many cases using off-the-shelf components.) 
2.      As Google knows all too well, there’s money to be had in the sale of online advertising.  In the not-too-distant future you can expect your smart shirt to not only report to you and your doctor the state of your health, but you better bet that you will start receiving emails and texts for pharmaceuticals that purport to correct a condition or enhance performance. (If you think that TV ads can be annoying, just wait until your prescription medicine bottle and t-shirt starts working for Madison Avenue.)

Where There’s Money to Be Made There's Opportunity and Danger

Whenever there is money to be made, entrepreneurs, profiteers and criminals will flock to that new technology like fly’s to honey. Today we already see web enable devices migrating into almost every aspect of our lives. We have Smart Homes, Smart Phones, Smart Cars, smart entertainment devices, smart clothing, jewelry, glasses, medical devices, and office equipment. You name it, and somebody somewhere is already working on making that device web-enabled. One of the impetus of this revolutions was the creation of low cost solid-state smart transmitter devices. These include sensor, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth enabled chips that can be integrated into all sorts of every day things we use.

Will Your Car Be Smarter Than You Are?

Automated Audi
Automated Audi (Photo credit: byDavvi)
Clearly the desire for smart devices is being touted by industry.  It’s also being pushed by the federal government, who is pushing for what’s known as Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology that is going to forever change the way you operate a motor vehicle.  While today’s cars and trucks are computerized, until now the only thing that these computers did was make sure that the engine was running properly.  With V2V, what is going to happen is that your car will become self-aware via sensors that are designed to detect and react to traffic in real time.  Try to enter an intersection where another vehicle is headed and the car will hit the brakes.  Try to merge into a lane where a truck is fast approaching and the car will take evasive action.  While this technology is being touted as a safety device, like every other technological innovation that has come down the pike, there is a dark side to it.

Just as with other Internet-ready devices, V2V technology is designed to communicate with other vehicles wirelessly.  This opens the door for hacking.  While hacking your smart refrigerator may result in the milk spoiling, could hacking your V2V equipped car be an entrĂ©e for everything from digital road rage to kidnapping. 

Behold, the Smart House

Who knows?  What is a certainty is that smart devices are here to stay.  As opposed to waking up one morning to find yourself surrounded by self-aware appliances, it’s more likely that like the personal computer the paradigm shift will start slowly and then ramp up within the next three to five years.  Already devices and subscription services are starting to show up, such as AT&T’s digitallife service that offers to protect and automate your home for one low monthly price.

Their YouTube video shows ma and pa sitting on the porch when the kids pull up. After telling their dad that they stopped by the house, Dad asks, “Did you leave the house in good shape?”  The 20-something kid replies, “Of course.”  At which point, dad reaches into his pocket for his smartphone, which he uses to turn on the home’s CCTV camera, turn off a faucet that was left running and lock the front door.

My point is, once home automation becomes as turnkey as cable subscription services, the race will be on by businesses large and small to stake a claim. Remember all the entrepreneurs that entered the dial-up ISP business back in the late '90s.  Of course, unlike these early Internet pioneers, if these Internet pioneers experienced technical difficulties such as their servers going down or when they got hacked, it was more of an inconvenience than an emergency. Also, the early days did not have the widespread Smart Criminal tools that are so easily accessible today. If you’re Smart changes it’s mind (by a hacker) what do you do? If the new wave of home automation experiences a glitch, would it be possible that your home could aid and abet a burglar, or heaven forbid, would it be possible that you won’t be able to gain entry to your own premises? Will you be issuing the command, “Open the front door, HAL"?

Need I Say More?

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In this article, I discussed the sea change that widespread automation via the internet has brought now and will bring in the near future. The so-called internet of everything. The ubiquitous connectedness of web-enable devices, (Smartphones, homes, cars and clothing, etc.) that has invaded every aspect of our lives. I explore our near future and also warn of the many dangers that widespread internet automation brings. Hackers can already take control of computers and your smart appliances, what happens when they take control of our smart houses and cars? If you have a comment relating to this article, leave it in the section below.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “technology” in the search box at the top left of this blog.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families, and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below. I hope you have found these questions and answers useful. 

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 Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on

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