The Industrial Age reinvented productivity. The Information Age reinvented communication. Now man and machine are coming together and it’s even bigger than the Internet. What is it? The Internet of Things!
The Internet of Things connects the physical world to the Internet through sensors embedded in objects everywhere. These sensors monitor the environment and send data to the cloud for analysis. Every physical object becomes a tool we can interact with in real time. And machines can communicate with each other to respond with no human intervention at all.
This IT inflection point will completely overhaul how humans interact with the physical world.
At David Kirkpatrick’s Techonomy Lab at the Stanford Research Institute, technologists and investors speculated on a mind-boggling future of “Man, Machines and the Network.”
General Electric’s Paul Rogers spoke about how GE jet engines respond to 5000 data samples per second to use less fuel but spend more time in the air. GE trains can identify where they are and what cargo they carry.
In GE’s “power of one” vision, a one percent increase in fuel efficiency can
save an airline $2 billion per year
save a utility $4.4 billion per year.
And a mile per hour increase in locomotive velocity could save a railway $1.8 billion per year.
That’s how much interactive sensors can increase machine efficiency to reduce the cost of transportation. It’s enormous.
Ford Motor Company’s Vijay Sankaran spoke of their vision to become an automotive technology company. Ford uses sensors to increase engine efficiency and create a better driving experience. What car consumers want most is fuel economy. Ford has invested $1 billion in electric vehicles to deliver new levels of fuel economy and future connectivity. Ford is also rethinking the “human machine interface” by which drivers interact with the car. That interface could feel like an iPad in future.
Ford is rethinking security too. How can a car sense environmental threats and respond autonomically the way the human body does? That’s biomimicry – designing technology to emulate nature. Biomimicry is often at the core of the best innovations. You can read more in How Nature Inspires Technology.
Executive Chairman William C. Ford, Jr. envisions using the Internet of Things to rethink transportation all together. With 1 billion cars on the road today, and 4 billion by mid-century, he says “If we do nothing, we will create global gridlock.” Urban mobility is of particular concern. Seventy-five percent of the world’s population will eventually live in cities. And fifty will be mega-cities with more than 10 million people each.
Therefore, designing transportation ecosystems that link cars with sidewalks, subways and other modes people use to get from place to place is how we will prevent global gridlock.
In Singapore, analyzing traffic data revealed that looking for parking was the greatest cause of gridlock. When they fixed the parking problem, they reduced the gridlock.
This is but a small example of what’s possible with the Internet of Things.
A large benefit of the Internet of Things is jobs. According to Bill Ford, no sector of the economy creates more spinoff jobs than the auto sector. “For each new job created in the auto sector, nine more jobs are created to support it.”
Since the Internet of Things will impact all industries, that means new jobs everywhere.
Google GOOG +0.17% Glass and smart watches are at the forefront of wearable computing. This was the hottest topic at the Techonomy event.
After hearing about startup MC10’s “thin-skin electronics” for biomedical applications, I can see why!
“Thin-skin” electronics are “ultra-thin flexible sensors” that look like a Band-Aid ®. But they are chips designed to monitor human body functions, like vital signs or a baby’s temperature. They can also sense when the body needs a targeted medical therapy, like insulin for diabetics. Through wireless communication, they can trigger a real-time response from care givers to intervene if needed.
As MC10 CEO Dave Icke further noted, patient compliance with follow-up home care is a big factor in recovery. Combining wireless connectivity with micro-computing can significantly improve patient compliance. That could mean the difference between life and death.
Andreessen Horowitz investor Frank Chen thinks the most creative opportunity for wearable computing is how the user triggers the sensor. For example, sensors that recognize gestures or process natural language create endless possibilities. Sensors could become intuitive in monitoring the environment and triggering a response, like our human senses do.
Sensors In Space
Finally, NanoSatisfi’s Peter Platzer told us how mini-satellites add a spatial dimension to monitoring. For example, we can increase our food supply ten-fold through precision agriculture that monitors crops, soil and weather conditions on the ground and from above. And we can improve earthquake early warning systems by correlating seismic and storm data with human and animal behavior. Now add a platform to build applications and anyone can launch a mini-satellite to monitor anything.
This is why the Internet of Things is exploding big data to a degree never imagined. We’ve gone way beyond Big Brother.
With man and machine integrating their intelligence via mobile devices and sensors, what’s next?
Sure you want to know?
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