Do we need Ubiquitous Computing before we can get to The Internet of Things?
I think you will be hearing a lot more about the “Internet of Things” over the next few years. While it is not a new concept there is a new buzz surrounding this topic as it represents the new frontier when everything get smarter and the things all around us start the talk to each through a connection to the Internet.
So what is the difference between the Internet of Things, which was first presented in 1999 by Kevin Ashton and Ubiquitous Computing that was coined by Mark Weiser in 1988? In my view there is not much difference between the two. An over simplified definition is that with ubiquitous computing someone engages with many computational devices simultaneously, the Internet of Things is where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network and become active participants in business processes. The important differentiator is that these things are not necessarily electronic devices but are connected through sensors.
The key point is that with the Internet of Things every item around us is connected through a common communication protocol and you would have to think that this will happen only once our experience with the electronic devices that we use today becomes less obvious and more ubiquitous.
So while the biggest challenges to achieve both the Internet of Things and Ubiquitous Computing is technology we cannot forget that both will come with added data, privacy and security challenges. The connection of devices and things in order to improve our lifestyle will involve the storage and transfer of huge amounts of data. So the fact your fridge can tell when you are running low on milk and place an order at your local supermarket sounds very convenient, although the thought of this and a lots of other data about your personal consumption being passed and stored with many organisations will be very concerning for some people.
You would have to think that before the physical things such as our food, transport, clothes and homes can be all connected we need to get our electronic devices talking to each other and delivering solutions that provide a tangible benefit to consumers. As we all acquire more and more technological devices the most common gripe seems to be that they all seem to operate in most cases independently of each other. This is not always because the devices themselves cannot talk through a common communication protocol but because the developers of software and applications have not considered the connection.
Get one part sorted and it will be logical that the rest will follow…well that is not entirely true but with so many opportunities for business and society if we can overcome the technological challenges and move closer to the Internet of Things it is fun to believe this anyway.