Internet of Things

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Dr John Riley is passionate about improving the innovation process, having first hand experience of large enterprises, small business, academia, and government. As Managing Editor of Computer Weekly (1992-2008) he championed true business value from IT and founded the CW500 Club for IT Directors. He was until recently Strategic Advisor to Erudine, an early adopter of agile technology, campaigning for the wider UK SME community. He was a founder of the UK Innovation Initiative and is active across the IT community.

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The Internet of Things revolution: wake-up call for corporates and politicians

Remember the new horizons opened by the original Internet revolution? It's happening again

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Why are today's senior - and not so senior - decision takers, whether business leaders or politicians, so seemingly unaware of the fast approaching third revolution in Internet access - the Internet of Things?

It is probably because the Internet of Things is the culmination of countless mini-developments creeping up all around us. Among these are the ever smarter mobile phones and the amazing things they can do, the increasingly clever applications of RFID codes, QL codes, facial and gait recognition, tele-medicine, steps towards smart utility metering, Oyster card introduction, car number plate recognition - the list goes on and on.

Right now these are relative silos of activity making an impact by bringing new capabilities and efficiencies to daily life and business. With interoperable standards all these silos will be able to interconnect and intercommunicate. And that's what the Internet of Things is about.

The Internet of Things goes beyond the millions and millions of machine to machine activity currently conducted via the Internet, with for example mobile phone apps. It is about the billions and billions of tiny chips that'll flood the world over the next ten years. It's about those tiny chips being programmable, trackable, findable, and uniquely identified, and with the sensing capabilities currently on mobile phones and more.

The Internet of Things is about the capability of every object - whether a toothbrush or a building - embedded with such chips to have a unique identifier, and, using its sensing, processing and communications capabilities to intercommunicate with its environment, other objects and living things - and, eventually ending up able to make autonomous decisions.

There'll be major business and social ramifications, opportunities and threats as a result.

So why the lack of awareness? It's because the possibilities sound too futuristic - too science fiction. But they're not!

We forget too easily how the World Wide Web - the first revolution in Internet access - transformed all our business and social lives. We take it so much for granted that we forget how improbable and unlikely it all sounded at first. The same went for the second revolution - mobile Internet access, which opened up the web to hundreds of millions more, especially the Third World.

The scale of the Internet of Things is so much bigger. Estimates of upwards of 20 billion embedded chips in the world by 2020 or 50 billion by 2025 will propel us into a new era of breakthroughs and change.

The Chinese government recognised the potential three years ago when it embarked on a multi-billion investment explicitly into the Internet of Things.

As with any emerging fundamental change this huge explosion of sensor technology can be used for the public good by enabling people or for control of people.

The technology is neutral - it's how it's applied. The Internet of Things is a hugely promising vehicle to improve communications on a global scale, and to bring massive efficiency improvements to health, transport, energy, environmental sustainability - in fact into every part of our business, social and personal lives. It also has the potential for use in a range of Big Brother surveillance and control applications.

This blog aims to act as a bridge between the developments and activities in this area and the business and political decision takers of today and their planners and advisors. Always grounded in commercial reality it will keep track of the emerging business and social impacts of the Internet of Things.

Some applications and developments will initially appear fanciful and far-fetched - but then what's new? Many similarly co-called fanciful and far-fetched scenarios were shrugged away in the early 1990s which came to bite and disintermediate those organisations that were slow to take them seriously.

Too many businesses and politicians today have no inkling about what it is store and this blog is intended as a wake up.

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