The Internet of Things. It’s that tantalizing idea that the next wave of internet-like interconnectivity is between our appliances and cars and devices—the things we own.
It’s a sprinkler system that talks to the moisture sensors in the yard + the Weather Channel, or how our smoke detector might develop a friendlier relationship with the toaster. Or how my car keys might find themselves. Please.
Bill Wasik at Wired magazine has June’s featured article on the status of the “physical internet,” which is more than just a Jetsons-like take on home automation. Companies like GE are using sensors and thousands of points of data per second to increase the efficiency of tricky manufacturing plants, while location-aware consumer systems are alerting the coffee bar to start your espresso when you walk in and auto-charge your virtual Starbucks card. You only gotta flash your pretty caffeinated smile.
Wasik describes three milestones on the way to a more physically automated world:
Step 1 is putting sensors on the network. That new side-by-side fridge with faux stainless finish needs your wifi password. Now it can broadcast temperature, door-open time, and maybe if the yogurt isn’t smelling so good.
Step 2 gets tougher: it’s getting two objects to interact. This is a creative challenge that requires a step back from the technology fishbowl: what “if-then” relationships do we have with our tools? “It’s cold, so I should close the windows” we think, except that we don’t have to think about it. Wasik notes this requires creativity and he’s right. Technological innovation has never just been the world of the nerds, but of those who observe human behavior the best: the artists and imagineers.
Step 3 is putting it all on an integrated application layer. Cisco, Qualcomm and others are now competing over a “HTTP for smart objects” standard. It brings the “programmable world” a lot closer than we might think.
So what happens when we get there?
- Well, imagine our church hooked up to the internet of things. What does that look like? (What’s the soundboard saying anyway?)
- And let’s reflect further on the theological implications. As Christians, do we have a scriptural thoughts on automation?
Be sure to read The Church on the Internet of Things? next, followed by parts 3 and 4!