Back in 1999, a technologist called Kevin Ashton pointed out that almost all the information available on the internet–a mere 50 petabytes at that time–had been captured or created by humans in the form of text, photos, videos etc.
Ashton suggested that this was likely to change in the not too distant future as computers became capable of generating and collecting data by themselves, without human oversight.
The technologies required for this are relatively simple–RFID tags for tracking objects, low-power sensors for gathering data on everything from temperature and air quality to footsteps and motion detection, and finally low power actuators that can switch anything on and off–things like lights, heating and air conditioning systems, video cameras and so on.
Ashton called this system “the Internet of Things” and began a number of companies and initiatives to kickstart it.
Since then progress has been seemingly slow. Consumers have been underwhelmed by the idea of remotely controlling a toaster over the internet and disbelieving of claims that their fridge could reliably order milk before it runs out.
But today, Arkady Zaslavsky and pals at Australia’s national scientific research organisation, CSIRO, reveal how the enabling technologies that Ashton imagined have rapidly matured and that the Internet of Things is finally poised to burst into the mainstream.
More info here.