If you own a smartphone, then you’ve already bought into the concept of the Internet of Things. Think about it. the main purpose of a telephone is to facilitate verbal communication across distances. The mobile phone makes it possible to accomplish this objective without having to remain tethered to a specific location, but thanks to cell towers and telephone lines, this can all be done (and was done for more than a century) without the need of the internet. So, why is it that we’re all currently walking around with wirelessly-connected supercomputers and calling them “phones”? It’s because we realize that our lives are enhanced through constant connectivity. By networking a mobile phone to other computers and servers around the world, we gain access to information that we can use to increase our own productivity, knowledge, or enjoyment. So, the question is this: Why stop with the phone?
This is exactly what leaders in the tech industry have been asking each other for the past several years. After all, if a connected phone can make such an impact, why not a connected car? Or a connected refrigerator? Or a connected pair of socks? The Internet of Things is the natural result. It is predicted that the Internet of Things will encompass over 50 billion devices by the year 2020, and as more and more devices are made “smart,” we’re going to start seeing some fairly drastic changes in the way that our world works.
For example, let’s take a look at social media.
Social media is, in and of itself, a fairly new and influential innovation. In fact, some have called it the single most impactful development of the last decade. Today, 72% of the American adult population use social media sites, and it seems like it’s impossible to surf the web or even look through a magazine (if anyone even still does that) without being buried in a flood of “like” and “follow” invitations. As the internet of things gains strength in the years to come, it will find social media ready to take its hand. But will this new partnership benefit humanity, or hinder it? The quick answer is yes. Let us explain.
Yes, having our various appliances and devices able to connect directly to our social media sites will be a boon. Our personal preferences for products will be delivered to advertisers who will give us special offers and send sms messages tailored to our own tastes. We’ll be able to receive updates from home systems letting us know how things are going back at the house while we’re away. Friends and family will be able to check in on us and our activities without having call or text us directly. Your iWatch will check in for you via Facebook when you arrive at an event. Your oven will take a photo of the cake you just baked and post it directly to Instagram. Basically, any information that you might want posted to your page and available to your acquaintances or to marketers will automatically be handled by the devices themselves.
And yes, the information that you would rather not share might be just as available. The 2013 Snowden fiasco proved that the data that we choose to send and receive across networks isn’t nearly as secure as many had hoped. With revelations regarding NSA surveillance, and other scandals involving the less-than-legal gathering of consumer information by business marketers, it seems fairly clear that the Internet of Things could be just another nail in the coffin of individual privacy. Would you feel as though your sensitive information were safe if Google or Microsoft had an informant (or several) hidden in your home, watching your every move? Because once your devices are all internet-connected, there’s a good chance that you’ll have even less say in what information is passed along to businesses and governments than is currently the case with web browsers and online purchases. Give the Internet of Things access to your social media, and you can expect to soon be sharing your page with any number of unknown eavesdroppers.
Still, there’s no stopping progress, as they say. The Internet of Things is already here, and in the next five years, we can expect to see it expand to encompass almost every facet of our lives. Social media will be—and indeed, already is—the first and most prominent arena in which the Internet of Things will really make its presence known. With its coming, we’ll enjoy a new era of communication, ease of access, productivity, and entertainment. However, don’t forget that increased connectivity means increased supervision, and as we embrace the Internet of Things, you can be sure that Big Brother will be watching.