Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The internet of thingumybobs

Like many of you I've been hearing bits and pieces about IoT in recent months.  The acronym takes me back to my airforce days, when it stood for Initial Officer Training, where newby RAF officers were given their first leadership training and taught which order to use their knives and forks in.  It appears there are different types of cutlery for different types of food and there is definitely a right and wrong way to select your eating irons.  As an other rank I never had that problem - I generally only needed the one knife, fork and spoon for any given sitting. I probably got them wrong on some occasions, to be fair.

But now it stands for the Internet of Things. This isn't a new concept, but perhaps it is one that is coming of age.  I can recall reading in the early 'nineties an interview with Bill Gates where he enthused about washing machines and dishwashers being hooked up to the fledgling internet, receiving updates and diagnostics as needed.  I recall wondering about the logistics of creating network points throughout the average British house, given than most I've ever lived in never had enough power points, let alone LAN sockets.  I have a rule of thumb about electrical outlets when upgrading part of a circuit - work out how many sockets are likely to be needed in the worst case scenario, then double it.  By all accounts, RAF Officers have the same approach with cutlery at mealtimes. I don't remodel often enough to ensure that I've always got enough sockets, so like most other people I have a surplus of extension cables dotted around the house waiting for the next partial rewire.

Obviously I hadn't considered the wireless environment we now live in, although I would still expect my WiFi to struggle if all my domestic appliances plus regular computing devices were to connect simultaneously.  But that's a fixable engineering problem, I guess.

So are we going to see Bill Gates' vision realised?  I think so, but expect there will be a mix of standards surfacing in an attempt to make one OS more predominant than the others.  Personally I favour a Microsoft solution; like many folk who use opposing OS such as Android for recreational purposes, I revert to Windows when I want to write or do anything productive.  I know Google wants to break this this up, but having been exposed to Chromebooks recently, I think I'll pass for the time being. Windows might be constantly hacked, bloated and prone to needing updates every time I look up, but they do have a track record in both consumer and business computing. Not a great record, maybe...

Of course it may be someone like Cisco who will hold the high ground - this IoT is all about devices talking to each other over the internet, allowing us to remove as much human interaction as required. You may not notice it happening - the process is very subtle and happening now. If you think about how you used the internet ten years ago it was probably just you and a computer. Now we routinely interact with computers via an intermediary device, setting our Sky boxes from our smart phone, for example. Google building self drive cars that will understand our travelling preferences is a heartbeat away.

The IoT is going to become very much in our faces and our lives very soon. But we may not even realise it while it unfolds. With luck it will develop into self selecting cutlery in case I find myself eating a meal in a posh hotel, because I never was sent on that course.

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