I read a lot about the Internet of Things. One of the best articles recently is a series being written by Christopher Mims for Quartz. In the two articles he’s written so far he is talking about how the IoT is going to transform our lives. I don’t think very many people are yet aware that this change is coming and how life altering it will be.
It’s easy to think about the IoT as being a smart device evolution that will make our lives a little easier. People today talk about putting together smart homes where the lights turn on and off as you enter the room and where you can change the temperature and other household settings from your smart phone. And today that is the IoT. Right now companies that make devices are starting to allow them to be IP and WiFi addressable so that we can communicate with them using a smart phone, tablet or computer.
But if that is all that the IoT is going to be it would be an incremental improvement in daily life for the geekiest of us, but it would be far from transformational. I believe that we are entering the century where IoT will transform our world. Within a decade we are going to see huge changes on our lives akin to the sort of changes that came from the introduction of the Web. And I am not sure any of us can really imagine what the IoT will do by the end of this century. But I know that the year 2100 will be as different from 2000 as that year was from 1900. We went from a world of horse drawn vehicles to a computerized world in a century, and the changes due to IoT will make today’s world look just as quaint as the horse and buggy does to us now.
So what are these big transformational changes? The article talks about some of the tools that the IoT will use. All of the types of new tools and techniques noted in the article are the necessary underpinnings of making a new world where people and devices become fully integrated. That total integration is the biggest change coming from the IoT.
Imagine a world where you walk into a party and nobody there is a total stranger to you because your personal computer will tell you who everybody there is and what their connection is to you. You will know without asking that the guy you don’t recognize is your neighbor’s brother visiting from Cleveland and the couple you’ve never seen are your friend’s dentist and his wife. The social changes coming from the IoT will be transformational because social media will move off the Internet and into the world and will be everywhere you go.
The IoT will also finally bring the early promise of the Internet to pass that all information will be instantly at your fingertips. Today you can search for things on the web, but you generally have to do a lot of work to separate fact from fiction. Web search engines bring up every reference to the topic you are interested in without helping you know what is true or false. But we are not far from a time when you will always be connected to the web by some personal device and there will be smart enough programs to automatically separate fact from fiction to bring you answers you want. Arming the world with instant facts will be transformational.
Probably the most astounding change to people will be in the medical field. We will have nanobots in our bloodstream that will be alerting us when they see something wrong. This means we will be able to head off colds and infections immediately and the day of the flu epidemics will be in the past. And many of our current medical practices will look like the dark ages. If a child needs to have their tonsils out we will let these nanobots gently remove the tonsil, cell by cell, over weeks so that there is no need for a scalpel and the associated risk and trauma. People with various chemical imbalances will finally have a local and effective treatment and cure. By the end of the century people will have to ask what cancer was because it will be a ‘disease’ of the past.
3D printing will be transformational. Today this is a novelty, but within a few decades this is something that your house will do for you in the background without you having to do anything more than telling it what you want. Your house will order the needed raw materials for the 3D printer, which will be delivered by robot-powered delivery vans. Your smart house will then make the needed item as requested. I remember a Star Trek episode where underground robots made things that people wished for. We are not too many years away from some version of that reality.