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IoT systems usher in a future with pervasive connectivity

Posted: 17 Mar 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:connectivity  IoT  wearables  embedded 

Technological developments in the IoT, embedded technologies, and wearables are laying the foundation for a future that will likely be centred around Internet connectivity, according to Pew Research Center, who surveyed over 2,500 experts and technology builders.

"They predict mobile, wearable, and embedded computing will be tied together in the Internet of Things, allowing people and their surroundings to tap into artificial intelligence-enhanced cloud-based information storage and sharing," the centre said in a recent report that's part of the Internet & American Life Project.

That's going to translate into a lot of different devices, services, and more. In another report that echoes these findings, Gartner Research puts the IoT's market size at 26 billion units installed by 2020, and that's not even counting PCs, tablets, and smartphones. That's a 30-fold increase over 2009, and its research firm says it will generate more than $300 billion in incremental revenue. Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner, said in a press release:

By 2020, component costs will have come down to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature, even for processors costing less than $1. This opens up the possibility of connecting just about anything, from the very simple to the very complex, to offer remote control, monitoring and sensing. The fact is, that today, many categories of connected things in 2020 don't yet exist. As product designers dream up ways to exploit the inherent connectivity that will be offered in intelligent products, we expect the variety of devices offered to explode.

Technologists largely agree on where the future is going, but there's less shared understanding on the broader implications of the vast technology revolution. Ultimately, there's bound to be positive and negative implications to expansive and pervasive communication. In fact, the Pew report identified 15 different versions of our digital future: eight hopeful, six worrisome, and at least one that was simply neutral.

Certainly, the way human being interacts will evolve greatly, changing a variety of fields, including health, education, work, politics, economics, and entertainment. At the same time, there's the potential for a significant clash between the need for security and the need for civil rights. Respondents to the Pew survey cited a huge uptick in concerns that are evolving even now where human beings and technologies mix: interpersonal ethics, surveillance, terror, and crime, to name a few.

The rosiest picture that came from the survey has information becoming the fabric of our lives as it is passed automatically and seamlessly through various machine intermediaries, so that the right information becomes available and usable as we need it. Better still, we'll have quick feedback about our life and health through augmented reality and wearable devices.

Globalisation will be taken to an entirely new level as relationships and collaboration spread across the globe. People will have a better understanding of the world and their place in it and impact on it. They will be agents of change, and borders in the world will dissolve. Instead of a network, the Internet will be multiplied to become a variety of related and useful networks. An education revolution will occur.

Of course, as the survey participants are quick to point out, there's always a dark side. Technologists fear that this powerful new world will create a huge divide between those who have access and those who do not—a reality that will breed resentment. The bad guys (rule breakers, hackers, abusers, etc.) aren't going anywhere, and there will be plenty of new ways for them to take advantage of others. The current powerhouses, such as governments and big businesses, will fight to retain power. The current struggle to get things done while maintaining security and privacy will only get tougher. People will also struggle to cope with the huge changes associated with a communications revolution.

- Hailey Lynne McKeefry
  EE Times





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