What Happens When Everything Is a Computer?
In the world of the near future, everything will be a computer, or at least have one embedded in it. Everything will be connected to the Internet. Every object will be “smart,” in a rather odd sense of the word. This will have a major effect on our lives.
The power of the IoT (Internet of Things) consists of three parts: sensing, computing, and communicating. To do anything interesting, a device has to get input. This means that each little machine is monitoring something — maybe just its own functioning, maybe its surroundings, maybe the activity of people. It turns this information into data and either takes some action on its own or sends the data to a more powerful computer. These central machines take the input from many little devices, including the ones in your own home, and make decisions based on them.
Maybe a device is starting to malfunction and needs service or replacement before it causes problems. Maybe it’s detected some nearby situation, like smoke, that requires prompt action. Maybe it’s noticed that your vital signs are off and you should schedule a medical appointment. Anything and everything is within reach of the IoT.
These devices aren’t just objects by themselves any more. They’re part of a system. We’ve seen what that change means in our computers. A quarter of a century ago, every computer was a separate object, at most occasionally reaching out to the world through a modem to send email or get a file. Now we’re used to computers that are constantly connected, ready to grab information on a moment’s notice from all over the world, even upgrading themselves. When we lose our connections, we feel lost.
In the future, we’ll think of connected objects in the same way. We’ll expect them to give us information about themselves and to tell us when we need to pay attention to them. Products with “some assembly required” still won’t assemble themselves — that takes mechanical power, which is a more difficult deal — but they might tell us if we’re assembling them properly or not. In brief, we’ll have inanimate objects that talk back to us.
They won’t just be talking to us; they’ll be talking to each other. When we have cars that drive themselves, they’ll talk to computers built into the road systems, avoiding construction and congestion. They’ll talk to traffic lights, which will switch signals in response to traffic before it even arrives.
The way that branding and marketing work will change. Smart objects will compete and differentiate not just on the basis of their physical qualities, but on an active relationship with their manufacturer. Like computers, they’ll be able to acquire new features after the buyers have taken them home. Competing brands will each have their distinctive style, like competing operating systems.
These advances will lead to what people in the tech industry are calling the “Internet of Everything.” They’re looking beyond just connecting things to building systems out of widely separated objects. They’ll be able to do things we can barely imagine now, such as making “just in time” resources a household concept.
We’ll also have less privacy, and these inanimate objects might have malware or spyware in them. This is already a problem. We don’t quite think of thermostats and security cameras as computers, so we don’t pay as much attention to their security as we should. What happens when they turn traitor and spy on us? What if they open back doors to our home and business networks, allowing access to our computers and servers?
The “legitimate” communication of devices on the IoT might also concern us. When our cars talk to traffic lights, will they also talk to cops and report when we’re illegally parked? When we’re at work, our employers will be able to monitor more closely what we’re doing. On the flip side, we’ll have easier access to the resources we need to do our jobs. For better or worse, the way we drive, work, and live will certainly change significantly.
The services we offer at Art + Design will keep your marketing strategy up to date with the many changes that are happening in the world. Please contact us to learn more.