Sam Hornsby: The Internet of Things: The Robopocalypse starts with your toothbrush

9/07/2012 - 16:28

Sam Hornsby:  "The Internet of Things takes various names (Ubiqutous Technology, Ambient Technology, Sensor Network…the list goes on) and can be a fuzzy and philosophical idea there’s no doubt (‘The Internet of Things’ as a moniker seems to stick since it references two ideas people know and can grasp – the Internet, and things).

Put most simply, IOT is a network of connected objects.

Vehicles, machine components, domestic consumable durables like your toothbrush and the clothes on your back – all hooked up to a network with a speed ‘most of us have yet to comprehend’. “The IOT imagines a world where everything can be both analogue and digitally approached – reformulating our relationship with objects, as well as the objects themselves”.

While it can be hard to imagine what IOT ‘looks like’, it’s perhaps the biggest socio-technological idea out there and one that’s increasingly re-shaping businesses, and our lives.

At the moment there are two broad ways of thinking about IOT. The first sees IOT as a ‘data layer’ over existing objects and infrastructure (this is something we can ‘get’ relatively easily). The second, no less real aspect, is seeing the IOT as a disruptive convergence ‘un-manageable with current tools’ that creates entirely new entities and models. This is the aspect that Rob advises you handle with caution when explaining IOT to your boss, or anyone with an interest in business as usual.

Why? Because IOT is pulling the rug from under businesses everywhere. Say you work in personal Insurance – an industry fundamentally built around objects being ‘invisible’ at some point in their life-cycle. With IOT you have the prospect of full traceability – and a stream of data – on those same objects. Work in traditional transport rental? ZipCar is one of the best known early examples of IOT in action – and after only a few years is valued at $1.2Billion."

read on for the tootbrush

On Saturday our friends at co-working community XinDanWei Shanghai  invited us to a talk by Rob Van Kranenburg, founder of ‘Council’, a thinktank on the Internet of Things (IOT) and a global policy big-wig who sits on the Expert Group on IOT for the European Commission.