The introduction of mobile computing marks the largest leap forward today in human-computer interactions. We’re now in the middle of one of the most important technological revolutions, our computing devices begin to adapt to our natural human function.
The past year has seen a large number of devices that are internet-connected and aim to augment what our laptops, tablets and phones already do. In 2015 we are going to see the Apple Watch land on people’s wrists and Samsung has announced that every device it produces will be connected to the internet. At the same time, Amazon has launched tools such as AWS Lambda that allow you to effectively react to a variety of events through services.
By 2020 half of the planet will be connected to the internet. Technology companies are developing devices that will make ours homes and offices "smarter"; construction companies are working on embeded sensors into roads and buildings; fashion brands are integrating connectivity into clothes and jewellery; and governments and regulators are working to establish the standards that will allow all these connected 'Things' to communicate with each other efficiently, ushering in what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by the end of 2018 there will be more than 114 million smart devices at work in Canada alone. The always-on always-conntected nature of IoT will provide business with the ability to price their services according to exact usage something already seen on how insurance firms offer usage-based plans to safe drivers.
One of the interesting aspects of the Internet of Things is the scale issue. So many of the devices of today have been limited to the use IPv4. This is the Internet Protocol that is used to route most of the traffic on the Internet. The IPv4 address field is a 32 bit field and that brings with it limitations. There are almost 4.3 billion IP addresses available in this space and they are close to being exhausted.
With this pool of addresses dwindling there was a need for something to replace it. Enter, IPv6. Today more than 90% of the traffic on the Internet is IPv4 and that will soon be a significant problem. IPv6 was developed in the late 90s by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to address this issue. This scheme has in excess of 7.9×10^28 times as many addresses. This would easily tackle the growing demand of Internet connected devices.
For years, the prospect of an online world that extends beyond computers, phones, and tablets and into wearables, thermostats, and other devices has generated plenty of excitement and activity. But now, some of the brightest tech minds are expressing some doubts about the potential impact on everything from security and privacy to human dignity and social inequality.
Many experts warned of the downsides as well. Security was one of the most immediate concerns. “Most of the devices exposed on the internet will be vulnerable,” wrote Jerry Michalski, founder of the think tank REX. “They will also be prone to unintended consequences: they will do things nobody designed for beforehand, most of which will be undesirable.”
This comes stem from the fact that there have been many security breaches in the areas of security camera DVRs, for example, being used to mine bitcoins as well as a worm that targets internet connected devices like home routers. As more devices come online, we can expect to see an increase in these kind of attacks.
The crucial thing to consider about the IoT is its integration with Big Data. If everything around us is keeping track of some aspect of our life, over time that information will coalesce into recognizable patterns, to the degree that our preferences and behaviors will become so predictable and 'easy to use' that the inconveniences of free will and self responsibility could become outdated. How we interact and make use of the coming technology remains to be seen.