I recently read a very interesting and detailed article that a colleague at work recommended. The article presents a very thorough overview of the latest revolution in consumer electronics combined with wireless communications: the Internet of Things (IoT).

The concept of the IoT defines a (near) future scenario where most (if not all) things on our physical world and lives will be interconnected with each other using all kinds of wireless protocols, such as WiFi, ZigBee, ZigWave, etc. On top of this myriad of interconnected sensors and actuators, a new playground for developers and people with ideas will be ready for new services (and even entire businesses) to be created, all following a similar “mobile OS – app” scheme. And all these new services will be based, according to the article’s author, on simple “if – then” rules:

If  the sun hits your computer screen, then you lower a shade. If  someone walks in the door, then you turn down your music. If  there’s too much noise outside, then you close your window. If  you have a Word document open but haven’t finished writing a sentence in 10 minutes, then you brew another pot of coffee.”

But all these cool new applications will result on new challenges. One of them (the main one, according to the author), will be battery and wireless charging technologies. Indeed, while semiconductors and transistor technology has evolved steadily following Moore’s law, battery technology has been pretty much stale (What time in the afternoon you have to charge your smart-phone on a day you go to work? If it is after 4pm, I want to know what phone you have). There is a great need for better and longer lasting batteries for mobile devices, as well as some kind of technology that feeds itself wirelessly through the signals it receives. Something similar to an RFID tag. Perhaps some day the power consumption of electronic devices will be low enough to get them to charge the battery by means of the actual power the wireless signal carries. Until then, some proposals might help us along the way. For example the wireless electric transmission proposed by the MIT start-up WiTricity.

IoT

I am a bit surprised that the author does not highlight too much the security challenges that the IoT will bring to communication systems. In do not think that “[…] Just as with social networking, the privacy concerns of a sensor-­connected world will be fast outweighed by the strange pleasures of residing in it“. I would definitively not feel comfortable at all with my garage door opening when my IoT hub at home, after receiving a message from my car’s geo-location system, sends an “open” command over ZeeWave… specially knowing that someone will show how to hack ZeeWave this summer at Blackhat. I agree with the author, however, in the fact that “[…] our recent hacking epidemic has largely exploited the human interface—the password. We’re always the weak link in online security […]“.

Anyhow, one thing I do know is that in the near future the IoT will change things and our day-to-day lives will look much like the movie Minority Report, with cereal boxes with displays and interactive commercials, personalized advertisements in the subway and smart stores.

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