The internet of things is the next big idea in computing

The internet of things is a big idea which holds that despite all the changes the computer revolution has already brought, it is just getting started. The first wave of computers brought computing to governments and big corporations. The second to everyday people through desktop computers, laptops, and smart phones. The third wave will introduce computers to everything else.

Convenience and increased productivity

Computers give machines the ability to calculate, process information, and make decisions for themselves. Chips will be incorporated into clothing, buildings, and cities, linking everything through the internet. This will bring a great deal of daily benefits. Convenience is a large factor. There will also be productivity improvements which will drive economic growth.

Arm, a chip design firm, predicts that there may be about a trillion small chips in everyday gadgets by the year 2035; outnumbering humans by around one hundred to one. The costs of such an endeavour have fallen significantly from what they were fifty years ago, making this future even more probable. Operating costs have also fallen. Now even cheap battery-powered chips can perform better than the supercomputers of the seventies.

Tons of raw data

For an internet of things to work, more than a trillion mini chips will be required. These will need to be connected to each other. Better technology has reduced costs of telecoms too, from sending telegrams to measuring speeds by megabits per second. The final piece of the puzzle is a way to gather the data that will be generated and organize and interpret it. Modern artificial intelligence techniques can extract useful patterns from tons of raw data. This can then be analysed by more powerful computers.

Firms are piling in to this idea. Big names such as Microsoft, Dell, Huawei, and Intel have promised to supply the infrastructure to computerise factories and supply the computer power necessary to analyse the data. Siemens has been buying up companies specialising in anything from sensors to office automation.

The internet of things will take decades to play out. However, we have seen large strides towards this recently. People should begin to think of what this future might mean, and what the downsides might be. As computers spread, concerns about hacking and security will follow.

The best place to start considering the internet of things is from one’s own home, which is becoming filled with computerized gadgets.