Remember when you were a kid and you saw a science fiction movie? If you were like me, you were amazed at the endless high-tech gadgets and devices that made life on the silver screen so futuristic and exciting. The creativeness behind those sci-fi concepts was simply awe-inspiring.
Well, today we’re starting to reap the harvest of all that inspiration. You could say that “the future is now.” Modern technology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives, from smart objects to integrated systems, from information sharing to logistics and nearly everything in between. We’re more connected through technology now than any other time in known history. And we’re on the cusp of the next giant leap forward. Imagine cars that talk to each other to better manage commute routes, phones that signal houses to prepare for your arrival with lights turned on and heat turned up, or your computer tracking all your important assets with GPS.
It starts with the Internet
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s J.C.R. Licklider and his colleagues could never have imagined that the “Galactic Network” concept first discussed in 1962 would catch on and change the world. But it did. A brief history of the Internet contains countless contributors, collaborators and visionaries who have made this invisible network critical to research, business, and our own daily lives. The Internet, it seems has become an integral part of our lives.
In a 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project report, “How the Internet has woven itself into American life,” researchers said that “a decade after browsers came into popular use, the Internet has reached into–and, in some cases, reshaped–just about every important realm of modern life.” In Pew’s 2009 report, “The Mobile Difference,” they added that “wireless connectivity has drawn many users more deeply into digital life.” And in their 2012 report, “The Future of Smart Systems,” they said that “hundreds of tech analysts foresee a future with ‘smart’ devices and environments that make people’s lives more efficient.”
It continues with the new Internet and new technology
The Business Insider reported that, “On June 6, 2012, a brand-new version of the Internet was turned on,” and that “we needed a new Internet because the old Internet was running out of address space.” Apparently the ‘old’ Internet only contained 4.3 billion unique addresses. Vint Cerf, the inventor of the Internet Protocol system says that the new Internet, IPv6 is “trillions upon trillions of times larger.”
Not coincidentally, the timing of the Internet expansion corresponds with an explosion of new advances in technology eager to include unique internet protocol addresses in countless ‘things’ that can connect to the Internet. Sensors with unique Internet protocol (IP) addresses that can be attached to objects (or things) and products with the Internet connectivity built into the product itself are showing up on retail shelves everywhere. At the beginning of 2012, tech blog ReadWrite, in talking about new products, reported that “over 50% at CES (consumer electronics show) were internet connected.” That number is growing exponentially with an expected 24 billion connected devices in the world by 2020 says GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association).
It culminates with the “Internet of Things”
According to Techopedia, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and will be able to identify themselves to other devices. IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than when the object existed by itself. No longer does the object relate just to you, but now it is connected to objects around it, data from a database, etc. When many objects act in unison, they are referred to as having ‘ambient intelligence.’ ”
Imagine a world where everything—not just computers and people—is linked. Emergency responders could know of accidents as they happen and where they happen, rather than wait for someone to witness it and then report it. Consider healthcare scenarios where patients’ vital health conditions are monitored outside hospital walls or where diagnostic procedures are performed and diagnosis performed remotely providing exceptional medical coverage where needed most.
Are you feeling like you’re on an episode of Star Trek yet?
Perhaps the most practical understanding of the concept of the “Internet of Things” originates from the founder of the term himself, Kevin Ashton, who writes:
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
This drives home the point of how the “Internet of Things” is already taking shape in our lives and our businesses.
Being Part of Innovation
Nothing could have excited me more than to have had the good fortune of being part of this awe-inspiring technology as it takes shape.
Working with Enigma, the former software developer of electronic parts catalogs, I was highly concerned with publishing, storing, and distributing data to help a “reduce waste, loss and cost” as Kevin Ashton describes above. The goal was to improve maintenance and repair operations through the distribution of knowledge to service technicians and staff so they have the information they need to determine if “things need replacing, repairing or recalling,” and the where-with-all to get it done.
When PTC acquired Enigma, they reaped the benefit of the connecting technology and incorporated Enigma products into their larger Service Lifecycle Management segment. PTC’s Service Lifecycle Management “provides an integrated set of innovative solutions that enable service leaders to plan, execute and optimize service across their entire network, regardless of task, role, product or geography”.
Being on the forefront of the innovative technology movement that is propelling us ever closer to complete connectivity – the very foundation of the “Internet of Things” – is a gift. The future is now.