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12/4/2013
10:56 AM
Daniel Castro
Daniel Castro
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Internet Of Things Meets Holiday Wish Lists

Lots of shiny, new, sensor-equipped "Internet things" are on gift lists this year, from phones to fridges. Start considering the practical applications now.

For years, the Internet of Things was a future engineers could only dream about, but the technology is fast becoming a reality, with huge ramifications for the economy and society.

The Internet is no longer just a network for people to communicate with other people. It's now a platform for networked devices to communicate with other devices: refrigerators with the electric utility, in-car navigation systems with roadway sensors, pacemakers with a computer in the doctor's office. This Internet of Things is enabled by a combination of technological advances, including low-cost sensors, low-power processors, and widespread wireless connectivity. It's creating a world that's alive with information.

As consumers head out to do their holiday shopping, an Internet of Things device might be on their list, sometimes without their realizing it. For the health-conscious, a variety of products such as FitBit activity sensors help people monitor their fitness levels. For the eco-friendly, there's the Nest thermostat, which learns users' preferences and schedules and then optimizes their homes' heating and cooling. Even those shopping for big-ticket items will find products and services with sensors and connectivity built-in -- cars with OnStar's emergency alert system, for example, or one of Whirlpool's smart appliances.

[ How connected will future vehicles be? Read 5 Ways Big Data Can Improve Your Car. ]

In the coming years, the Internet of Things will transform our world so that the ability to "know and control" is embedded in our homes, offices, vehicles, and cities. This transformation will have profound implications for addressing important social and economic issues.

Consider the impact the Internet of Things will have on energy. First, smart meters are building intelligence into the electric grid so that utilities can identify usage in real time, identify and repair network problems, and optimize energy production. Second, smart appliances combined with dynamic pricing of electricity let customers automatically reduce their energy usage during periods of peak demand, saving them money and reducing their environmental footprint. Third, the Internet of Things is unlocking the potential of renewable energy by letting consumers sell energy back to the grid, and by creating more efficient wind turbines and solar panels optimized based on weather conditions.

As the technology advances, we must ask this question: Will the government make or break the Internet of Things? Al Gore didn't invent the Internet, but the US government has had an important role in its formation, with early years at DARPA, and continued development, including recent efforts by the FCC to expand access to broadband. But bad public policies can undermine new technologies as well.

Although private-sector innovation is responsible for most of the devices that comprise the Internet of Things, policymakers will determine how these devices and related technologies are regulated and whether government agencies are early adopters. Just as important as the devices themselves will be the software layer that collects and processes the data generated by the Internet of Things. For example, a number of devices already let patients monitor their health conditions remotely, but this data must be standardized and integrated into electronic health records. And communications between vehicles on the road might serve one purpose for drivers, another purpose for an insurance company, and yet a third purpose for city planners -- requiring novel legal arrangements for data sharing.

Given the magnitude of the economic impact the Internet of Things will have, consumers and policymakers must start paying attention now. Fortunately, many of them can start learning with the devices they receive this holiday season.

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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 4:56:57 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
I use Strava in the same way to track bike rides, and the value is purely entertainment. By following other riders I can, if I miss the morning ride, see if the group had a particularly fast ride that would've left me in the dust anyway, thus making me feel good about sleeping in. 
castrotech
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castrotech,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2013 | 11:03:27 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
Thomas,

I agree that data needs to be basically plug-and-play for many people to take advantage of it. But remember a lot of devices will just be talking to other machines; they won't necessarily be bugging you with data.  

 

My think tank -- the Center for Data Innovation -- just released a report on the potential benefits of the Internet of Things, and how it can help do thing like protect the environment, conserve energy, make farms more productive, make transportation safer and faster, improve public safety, and create better health care.  No device is perfect for everyone, but I think we are seeing a lot of examples of devices that are having big impacts even today.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 8:53:51 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
I'd be curious to know how much time you spend dealing with running data and configuring gear to deal with it? And what meaningful change has resulted from having such data? I've run for years on a treadmill and I just don't see the advantage to having a statistical breakdown of my exercise routine. Perhaps it's just a personal preference for such information, but if that's the case, then the Internet of Things is being overhyped. Big Data includes a lot of Pointless Data, as least from where I'm standing.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 8:46:24 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
I'll play devil's advocate here: What about the good that can come from companies tracking your data: personalization, etc.? I wonder where people draw the line. How much is too much?
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2013 | 7:12:37 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
@Doug but wouldn't they also know precisely where in NJ you are at particular times? I wonder if they will start some kind of promotional tie-in that alerts you to the presence of stores along your route. 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 6:39:16 PM
Re: The hackers will follow close behind
Does this fake Fitbit data report that you've run a 6-minute mile? Becasue I would be ok with that. Kidding aside, IoT privacy and data breaches are a huge concern. Trust will take time.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 6:25:00 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
One thing data can do is help you face the truth. With that said, I'm getting a Nike+ Fuelband or Fitbit band for Christmas. It's time to shatter the delusion that i'm running faster with age.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 6:18:51 PM
The hackers will follow close behind
How secure is your Internet of things? Probably not so much. I'm talking with computer science researchers who had fun hacking the Fitbit's wireless interface and otherwise manipulating it into producing fake data. (they did also come up with some possible defenses to suggest to the manufacturer)

See http://users.cis.fiu.edu/~mrahm004/fitlock/

 
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 1:05:30 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
I guess they know I'm an avarage runner for my age who mostly runs in NJ. They also know I don't use Nike shoes exclusively and sometimes track X-country skiing. What more might they know?

As for what I do with the data, I know that I'm lagging behind my totals for the last two years by about 100 miles. I also know whether I'm picking up my pace as I'd like to as a 5K or 10K approaches. Serious training gets into heart rate monitoring to see if you're really getting fitter. Lately the data tells me that I'm running less and slower, sadly.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 12:24:50 PM
Re: Internet of Blood, Sweat & Tears
I'm curious what Doug does with all that data. I run regularly but still think wearing a good pair of running shoes is leading edge. Well, I stopped wearing cotton shirts as well, in favor of material that wicks away sweat...went truly leading edge! 
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