My Observer comment piece on what the Internet of Things looks like when it’s at home:
There is a technological juggernaut heading our way. It’s called the Internet of Things (IoT). For the tech industry, it’s the Next Big Thing, alongside big data, though in fact that pair are often just two sides of the same coin. The basic idea is that since computing devices are getting smaller and cheaper, and wireless network technology is becoming ubiquitous, it will soon be feasible to have trillions of tiny, networked computers embedded in everything. They can sense changes, turning things on and off, making decisions about whether to open a door or close a valve or order fresh supplies of milk, you name it, the computers communicating with one another and shipping data to server farms all over the place.
As ever with digital technology, there’s an underlying rationality to lots of this. The IoT could make our lives easier and our societies more efficient. If parking bays could signal to nearby cars that they are empty, then the nightmarish task of finding a parking place in crowded cities would be eased. If every river in the UK could tweet its level every few minutes, then we could have advance warning of downstream floods in time to alert those living in their paths. And so on.
But that kind of networking infrastructure takes time to build, so the IoT boys (and they are mostly boys, still) have set their sights closer to home, which is why we are beginning to hear a lot about “smart” homes. On further examination, this turns out mostly to mean houses stuffed with networked kit…