You are the data

In a future where technology is fully embedded into the fabric of society, we’ll have options.

We can retreat to a cave in some remote location. We can adjust and adapt begrudgingly. Or, we can embrace fully the new world order.

Those are the choices, and for most of us, the first one will likely not be realistic.

What will drive this fantastic future? You’ve probably heard mention of it. It’s called the internet of everything, or, more commonly, the Internet of Things (IoT).

The vision and the now

In the IoT vision, sensor-driven data will connect everything to everything else. Huge amounts of unstructured data will be transmitted by our cars, our smartphones and wearables, our appliances, even our clothes.

Imagine artificial intelligence performing data analytics in real time on exponentially larger and ever-evolving data sets.

Based on the data, the AI will direct autonomous machines to perform tasks ranging from the most simple to the most complex.

We will be the data and, in effect, function as a single connected organism with a collective intelligence that could propel our evolution into overdrive. That sounds pretty grand—or chilling, depending on your point of view.

As the IoT unfolds over many generations to come, the day-to-day reality will be cumulative gains sprinkled across a landscape of trial and error.

For example, tech-52 wrote about a recent widespread Internet disruption that caused a number of websites and web 2.0 services (e.g., Netflix) to become inaccessible. The disruption was reportedly caused by hackers managing to assemble a number of unsecured IoT devices (digital video recorders and IP cameras) into a botnet that was used to cause a DDoS attack.

Who would even think of something like that? More importantly, why weren’t manufacturers building security into these IoT devices?

Disruptive technologies

Those IoT infrastructure and device manufacturers no doubt want IoT technology to be disruptive, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what they had in mind.

Nonetheless, IoT and the aforementioned connected future are coming, and it will change our world dramatically.

As IoT unfolds, important and difficult questions of freedom, privacy, and independence should be answered. But will they? George Orwell might have had something to say about that.

Like any technology, or set of technologies, IoT will emerge at its own pace, but probably a lot faster than we might think. Along the way, industry leaders and upstarts will develop, refine, discard, and, ultimately, settle on IoT core technologies that will need to be robust, efficient, and secure.

When there are markets to conquer and profits to be had, that will be easier said than done. Cooperation is not the first thing you think of when it comes to competitors.

Nonetheless, it has become fundamental in technological advancement that, from the chaos of competition, standards emerge. We’ve seen this with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, to name a few.

Applications emerging

What about IoT applications? We’re already seeing more targeted products and services emerge, but those little devices we carry in our pockets are clear harbingers of what’s to come.

From The Atlantic:

Digital devices are becoming more “alive” by the year, increasingly able to see, listen, sense, interpret and act on our behalf. These intelligent devices…will continue to evolve until they are whip-smart and their intelligence is liberated from metal encasements and dispersed into the world, bringing new intelligence to energy grids and public roadways, farm fields and school rooms, factory floors and city planning offices.

Initially, IoT will see its biggest gains in business and government. In my day job as a tech writer, I work for a company that produces enterprise network-attached storage (NAS) systems (hardware and software). These systems are capable of storing vast amounts of data—petabytes, even exabytes.

Our customers run the gamut in entertainment, social networking, computer and chip manufacturing, genetic engineering, and government applications, but they all have in common the need to store and access huge data repositories—data lakes, as they’re increasingly being referred to.

The ability to collect, access, and search through data lakes enables these organizations to gain new insights, refine processes, reduce costs, and develop new products and services. These data-driven advances are often referred to as the application of data analytics, which is fast becoming a staple of modern business.

The only constant is change

IoT will eventually grow beyond business and government applications and into the very framework of society—even into our personal lives.

Life as we know it will be transformed—our governments, jobs, schools, habitats, you name it.

We will need to adapt as a society. Many of the jobs that people work at today will become obsolete. Those coal mining and manufacturing jobs that our current president talks about aren’t coming back.

Perhaps there will be new jobs to replace them—as the aforementioned Atlantic article suggests, “robotics engineers, smart-farming experts, tech-savvy city planners, application developers, software designers and an army of algorithm writers and data scientists.”

Another, perhaps more compelling, benefit of all this connectivity, all this shared knowledge? We will be an eminently more efficient society. The cost of living will be lower. We will slave less, in more fulfilling jobs, with more positions for artists, craftsmen, musicians, and enthusiasts.

That’s the optimistic view. And, at this point in time, I want to be optimistic for the future. I want to be positive. I’ve been a big believer in the potential for technology to be a force for good. Why stop now?

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