The Internet-of-Things is Alive!

A short story about changes in connectivity

Chris Stakutis   978 764 3488     August 2014   CTO

Published at 

We all know that technology is getting cheaper and more pervasive than ever (for example, do you even consider if the donut shop has free WiFi service today?). But that's not what the Internet-of-Things is all about. IOT is about simply connecting everything. EVERYTHING.

Let's first start but looking at the history of bar codes.

We take those silly looking hunks of black lines on the side of our products for granted. They have been on products forever. In fact, since about 1974. Actually, the invention of using bar codes starts with railroad cars around 1960. But you and I didn't truly see bar codes being “read” by supermarkets until the late 1980's. It takes technology a while to get producers attention, convince retailers of the value, and make consumers happy. It did happen and today you expect your products to be scanned as much as you expect your coffee shops and other rest areas to have free WiFi Internet.

So what is “The Internet-of-Things?”

Your 1D or 2D bar code is passive. It has to be scanned (by some sort of light) and then decoded and information looked up in some sort of database system. Your bar code does not communicate. It says nothing. It is just a reflection.

But what if it was cheap-enough to replace the bar code with a tiny tiny tiny computer chip. One so small, and uses so little power, it doesn't even need a battery (it can derive power simply from the transmission of data/signals over the airways). It would then cost about as much as a bar code today which is basically nothing. Yet, it could communicate.

We mostly live in a world of our wireless phones which communicate miles to a tower. Such communication takes a lot of power and has limited bandwidth. But the future of wireless communication is to tiny cells that only talk a few feet apart. Put enough cells together, you can essentially talk (or hop) any distance to any thing. The entire world can be strung together like yarn in a clothing shop. Imagine the cardboard milk container in your fridge actually being able to share data with a supermarket in Japan...and it's fast and free.

A few days ago (Sept. 11) Stanford University announced an “ant-sized” radio that does just this. Costs pennies, requires no power. The Internet-of-Things is finally coming.

It is perhaps difficult to explain why this is so significant (think back to bar codes and at first where just cute but today are essential). Most other wireless revolutions only expanded your connected circle by a little (think about your first car many people could you even call?). This is different. This is an EXPLOSION of connectivity and it is not limited to only people that are wealthy or tech-savvy. Billions of devices (frankly everything) will have some ability to connect to you and your desires. Billions.

We in the Internet world are just starting to understand the term “Big Data” and what it means to have the kind of records of transactions that Walmart has or your phone company or any big company. Explode that a billion times and that is the world we are entering. It is nearly unpredictable the amount of benefits that will arise, but be sure to know that the clever people out there will figure that out and our lives will dramatically change.

Written by Chris Stakutis, technologist and author, for Modern Man Jack. Twitter: @Stakutis

© 2014 Chris Stakutis is an independent consultant, author, and software creator available to help your business.