Unfolding plans 120 – The internet of things

We’ve created a new collective noun. A parliament of crows.  A bank of things, a bunch of things, an internet of things.  The Internet used to be a proper noun and then became an ordinary noun only to mature into a collective noun.  Is this the evolutionary cycle of a word?  Is it its product lifecycle, introduction growth and maturity, only to be followed by decline and eventual annihilation?

You hear it a lot these days.  It’s slipping into the common parlance of those in the know.  We’ve been asked to bid for some money for an ‘internet of things’ programme.  There will only be one award and so competition will be tight. A competition of ideas?

So what is it?  Apparently the internet of things is a proposed or already real development of the internet in which everyday objects, animals or people have network connectivity allowing them to send and receive data. Everything is provided with a unique identifier and given the ability to talk over a network without human intervention.  Can you imagine it?  Trillions of sensors spewing out data, capturing every motion, every action, every change or trend.  Every stasis even.  Our whole world will be filled with an invisible soup of data just waiting to be turned into useful information.  An ether of data?

And what are we going to do with it all.  Will we have the applications to decipher it, interpret it and comprehend it?  Will we have the power to mine it, extract its useful minerals, pick out the nuggets from the base rock, crush it and smelt it?  Or will it end up as virtual slag heaps littering the digital world?  Will it be data for data’s sake or is this the natural progression of the technology that we have unleashed upon the world?

We haven’t got much time.  The bid has to be submitted by the end of September.  That sounds a way away but the draft needs to be ready a couple of weeks before that and everyone is on holiday during August.  A group has been set up and I need to let everyone know wat we are up to and what I think it is that we should be concentrating on.  Those six weeks will whistle by.

There are a few areas that jump out for me as possible contenders but I’m just at the start of my thinking.  The flow of people would be a good one.  Using data to understand where people really go and how they use transportation to get there would make good use of available sensors.  There’s already a lot of them about by roads and railways.  Some social issues would be a possibility as well, such as fuel poverty or loneliness.  Being able to report on the relative energy usage of households would, no doubt, highlight some inequalities and wastage.  Loneliness, especially in older people would be more difficult as, by its very nature loneliness is a symptom caused by the lack of something.  A lack of is quite hard to measure.

I’ve made a start though, I’ve written a blog about it.  @runawaykiwi suggests that the collective noun for bloggers should be a click.

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