Possibly the most far-reaching long-term impact of the IoT will be its ability to irrevocably transform the landscape of the Internet itself. Already no longer just a network of computers, it continues to evolve to become a network of devices of all types and sizes – such as cars, refrigerators, smart-phones, toys, cameras, medical instruments and industrial systems – all connected and communicating in real time. Predictions for the number of connected devices constituting the IoT appear to rise exponentially at each new encounter.
When we speak about communications in the context of IoT we are, of course, referring to the transmission and exchange of data. One of the more potent promises within this technology is the promise of the increased comfort, satisfaction and efficiency that together will improve the overall quality of daily life. To date, making sense of these data streams has largely been the preserve of experienced data scientists – this is attributed to the many different types of data to get to grips with. Yet in 2013 we can expect to see data types start to become much more standardized and new developments will be geared towards accessibility for everyone. For example, current data science has the ability to construct a jet engine which can 'communicate' that it is faulty – but similarly we are now increasingly able to install different kinds of devices inside the human body which can flag signs of illness, where usually we would wait for symptoms to arise. Speaking at the recent Le Web conference, DJ Patil, a data scientist with Greylock Partners, emphasised the potential of using data to improve ourselves:
“It should be the Internet of nouns...A noun being a person, place or thing. When we think about ourselves, we create data – things like our temperature, perspiration, our heart rate, can all be measured. So the way we instrument ourselves can help us to understand more about ourselves.”
The transition to IPv6 is also expected to gather significant momentum in the coming year. Ipv6 adoption (and the 340 billion IP addresses it will bring) promises a world where every physical object is linked to the Internet. In line with the the three-steps-forward-two-steps backwards style of progress that is symptomatic of the depth of complexity with many IoT issues, the uptake of this protocol has so far been relatively slow – a delay which in itself brought about the closure of IPv6 promotion body 6UK earlier this month (6UK said it could not hope to establish the protocol without public sector sites leading the way). However on the upside, a recent poll conducted by TechWeek Europe found a surprising level of support for the protocol, with 40 percent of readers saying their external-facing sites would support access over IPv6 by the end of 2013 and a further 12 percent who said they will support IPv6 internally as well.
The trend known as the 'Quantified Self' will certainly be one of the more interesting areas to watch, combining as it does a heady mix of big data, mobile, sensors, visualisation and gamification. The recent highly illuminating 'Sensor Mania' report highlights the increasing interest in peronalised next-generation self-tracking products as currently one of the biggest growth areas for IoT including such recognised first-generation devices and applications as: the Fitbit, myZeo, BodyMedia, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, MoodPanda, Nike Fuelband, The Eatery, Luminosity’s Brain Trainer, and the NeuroSky and Emotiv brain-computer interfaces (BCI). A comprehensive listing of quantified tracking devices is maintained by the Quantified Self community at http://quantifiedself.com/guide.
Mark C Curtis, Chief Client Officer for the global service design agency Fjord, has also suggested that 2013 will be the Dawn of the “Personal Ecosystem” wherein IOT objects will create a network amongst themselves to support the overall needs of their owner. Curtis predicts that at first, this technology will be used in the fitness, finance and energy saving industries, but will then be adopted in to novelty / single-purpose products.
Iot developments in China will continue to be closely monitored. As part of a huge investment programme, the government has established a number of state-owned enterprise zones such as the Chengdu Internet of Things Technology Institute in Sichuan province, which is developing a health care system in which rural villagers can step into a telephone booth-sized "health capsule" to get a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor in a distant hospital. Although the larger goal of China's focus in IoT, analysts say, is to win the race in setting international standards for new technology.
Dave Evans, Cisco's Chief Futurist and Chief Technologist, last month posted a blog where he suggested we are now moving away from IoT and already entering a new realm which he termed the Internet of Everything (IoE)...'bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before—turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.'
He also emphasised the increasing need for business/ public services leaders to begin preparing for what is to come. In the same way that in recent times 'social media' has become an indispensable string to the professional bow, 2013 may well emerge as the year in which companies and organisations realise that having an 'internet of things' game plan will be just as expedient.
Melanie King is a Research and Development Officer for the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network (CI KTN), one of 3 KTNs that comprise the IoT SIG team.