Dr George Roussos is a technical expert at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and is a reader in pervasive computing at Birkbeck College, London. “The Internet of Things” is a term that is being used more and more – and that featured largely at CES 2013. Below he explains more about it…
CES 2013 saw a plethora of new connected devices coming onto the market and being demonstrated at the show. These ranged from devices that are now very common, such as new smartphones, to highly specialised devices ranging from smart thermostats to forks that can tell you how fast you are eating.
What these devices have in common is the fact that they can communicate with one another and with you and me in what is known as the Internet of Things. With a device such as a smartphone operating as a hub in the network, consumers can expect to be able to control a wide variety of devices remotely – for example by being able to turn down the heating in their house from a hotel room miles away.
Obviously, such a wide range of devices constantly sensing, sampling and recording will generate a truly vast amount of data, capturing information about individuals and their preferences. This data could range from health information (from a connected heart monitor), to dietary preferences (from a connected fridge) or even to movement patterns on a grander scale.
Data collected by the Internet of Things therefore has applications that vary widely. For a city planner, knowledge about the movement patterns of people would be invaluable – leaving them able to predict increased demand and strain on a transport system, for example.
The other extreme would be to use the data collected for a totally introspective purpose – something that has become known as the “Quantified Self”. This concept relies upon the availability of technology to monitor the activities of the individual, collecting data on everything from heart rate to food items consumed, and even mood to give a data driven picture of yourself on a wholly personal level. The motivations for such a project could be health driven or philosophical, but the wave of internet connected devices makes this an easily achievable goal.
What is eminently clear is the fact that the Internet of Things is here to stay. The convenience of internet connectivity on a wide range of devices is rapidly becoming apparent, and while the technology itself provides useful applications for consumers, so the data available provides a brilliant resource for a wide variety of professionals, from doctors to urban planners.
The challenge now is to extract useful data from the mundane to provide critical insights into human health and life. 2013 is set to be a very big year as scientists and consumers develop and use this exciting concept.