Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?
Morpheus. The Matrix
One does not stop his geekiness from existing just because one works in a Corporation, mind you. I was recently flying home after a very intense week spent in Las Vegas. As usual that place exhausts me. It’s the lights I guess. Not the sound but the lights. Anyway, I was flying back and watching one of my all time favorite movies (guess the Title lol) in my laptop. By my side, another person was playing a sudoku game in his smartphone and beyond that person a lady was crushing candies in her tablet.
I was focusing on the movie and as it was late at night, almost everyone but the people on my same line of seats was sleeping. I didn’t feel sleepy yet, but I knew I would soon so I just looked at the screen and focused on the greens and whites of the movies (so full of them). Through the corner of my eye I caught some light, and when I looked, another person was using something that look like a watch to read some text, and that made me look at my own naked wrist. Nothing there, but I did remember I had thought about buying one of those cool new watches. You know the kind, they gather bio info from you and give you back some cool stats like how much you sleep, how fast your heart pumps and all other kind of data we’ve lived without just fine so far.
The night was going to be long but I did not feel like sleeping…nor watching the movie anymore. Which is odd considering it is one of my all time favorites. I figured I know most of the lines anyway so I stopped it and decided to focus on the idea that was forming in my head. Something had triggered that chain of thoughts that took all those devices and what they did, as much as a few lines from the movie and set them in motion. The minute I opened my laptop I remembered.
Garner published, not long ago, an article stating that by the end of 2015 1.1 Billion devices will be connected. I had saved the article to my desktop and it was still open. I didn’t save it because of the numbers but for two facts present in the title that caught my eye.
1. Gartner actually says “Things” rather than devices. Devices, when referred to in the IoT world imply technology per se while “things” is a generic. A good generic as it’s called “The Internet of Things” for something. It does imply “non-devices” can be connected.
2. The title also mentions “smart cities”, implying those most of those things that will be connected will be city-based and grant such cities with some sort of intelligence, defined basically by their ability to be inter-connected.
There are a ton of new articles on this subject out there, and they are all starting to focus in the next 2 or 3 logic steps of evolution on the “Internet of Things” topic, like what else can we plug into something, and to what end and of course, how do we consume it and what’s the social effect they’ll have.
It seemed to me though that this title was already working on a 2nd IoT generation of ideas. We’re talking about “things” here. That draws a picture of a multitude of non-connected well, things, that we are going to connect somehow and with that make cities smarter. But it does bring up a few questions, doesn’t it?
Questions like: what things? what other things do we want to connect? And connect them to what? to what purpose? and what do we want to achieve? what happens if you’re not within one of these smart cities? does it mean that your things are not connectable? What are the things that need to be within a city and connected? what are the things that are not worth connecting?
But this can only happen in cities, as in “those places where interconnection is feasible”. This also made me think of the fact that there are not just a few, but actually a lot of places around the world that don’t even have electricity, or potable water, let alone things that could connect with other things. Not that information could not be gathered, but bow if basic needs are still unsatisfied there? What’s the use of Facebook’s flying internet service if they won’t bring food, shelter or relief to those who need it?
It struck me then. The IoT can be a dream only dreamt for and by those within cities. Of course that’s literally millions of people around the world, but what about the other millions, the ones that can’t read or operate an electronic device because there simply isn’t one around?
All those things out there waiting to make cities smarter hold one key concept in common: they are now being designed for that end. Things today, specially in those cities are already evolving in such a way they will connect naturally and add to the whole IoT concept. There are others things though, as oral knowledge that’s still transmitted from generation to generation, or crafts taught from father to son, mother to daughter lost in places where electronics are not a big thing.
Those “things” resist the IoT concept all year around. And they will continue to do outside cities. That’s the actual way out of The Matrix if you think about it, and it can be your way in as well: be part of a city and be connected. Leave the city…and plug off the IoT. This is what makes possible for us to discern between reality and what the IoT is building for us: the very actual true that there’s still a lot to connect that just can’t be connected right now. At one point it can alienating, can’t it?
You might still get the electronics, and you might still buy cool things, only they will not be “Things” (as in stuff that can gather or produce information, connect somewhere and do something amazing with that information), just plain old regular, real and earthy…things.