Can you imagine a world in which everything in our daily lives is connected to the Internet? What if you could sit down at a piano and find out, with just a few button pushes, who had played that piano before you and what songs he or she had played? This idea of universal connectivity is often referred to as “The Internet of Things,” and it’s a notion that some say could be reality in the not-too-distant future. It was one of the biggest topics of discussion this year
Already, we’re seeing new products and technology emerging that are bringing us closer and closer to a completely connected world. Things like smartphones, smart watches, and even smart homes are already on the market and if this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was any indication, tech companies are salivating at the opportunity to take advantage of a new, and potentially very lucrative, market.
As awesome as it may sound to some to have a world that is constantly connected, others aren’t convinced it’s possible just yet. Concerns still exist about the actual technology it would require to have an “Internet of Things,” as well as the price and privacy of the technology. Others worry that many of these smart devices won’t actually make life more convenient for the users. On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission released a report saying that lawmakers need to pass rules that lay out when companies have to admit they’ve been hacked. It also gives manufacturers recommendations on how to protect the smart products they sell to consumers and encourages them to limit the amount of data they collect and retain on users. While the report doesn’t ask Congress to write legislation about the Internet of Things, it does begin to lay out what companies should be thinking about when designing and selling smart devices.
What is the Internet of Things as we understand it today and what role(s) could it play in society? Is there a point we reach at which humanity is too connected? How close are we to the Internet of Things being a reality?
John Barrett, Ph.D., head of academic studies at the Nimbus Centre for Embedded Systems Research at the Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland.
Leah Lievrouw, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA, specializes in new media and social change.