My colleague Adam Christensen wants to make Smarter Planet something that matters to each of us: something that more people can understand, appreciate and maybe even feel some degree of personal, emotional connection to.
I couldn’t agree more. First, because the changes envisioned through Smarter Planet, and the challenges to making them happen, are big. Huge even. Building the new infrastucture the world needs to solve our energy, healthcare and environmental dilemmas isn’t really an abstraction. In fact it is possibly the largest and most daunting task in human history. But the scale of that ambition is also what makes this frontier so meaningful and interesting: the mother of all Manhattan projects.
Of course, turning global “complex systems” — like the network that makes up how food is grown, distributed and consumed — into something safer, smarter and more sustainable sounds nice. It’s just may not be something that individuals feel like they can touch or effect, no matter how desirable the goal may seem.ill
The same thing goes for the idea that the Web we know today may be on the verge of becoming something deeply different: an Internet of trillions of things, with practically every imaginable object connected to it, flowing into it. That may sound cool or interesting to some, but for many, the real reaction to the idea of “ubiquitous computing” may be “so what?” or “why should I care?”
The short answer, I think, is that this new world won’t just be the Internet, only more. It’s real promise is to give us better ability to innovate our way out of the real looming threats ahead. By the middle of this century, now just four decades away, human population will almost certainly jump from six billion people to nine billion, possibly twelve. And many of those new billions will be following the lifestyles of the developed world. As one obsever in India recently noted, it would take three Earths to support that many people using the same amount of energy and resources that Americans alone consume today.
So to help people understand, and I hope, care more about some of these tectonic technology changes afoot, I’ve found video clips to make two of these key ideas a little easier to grasp.
First, to make the Internet-of-Things concept a bit more accessible, I stumbled on this clip about a new device, called Mir:ror, from an unusual company called Violet. It shows how smart “tags” or radio frequency identity (RFID) chips could change the way everyday physical objects may become intergrated into our digital lives. (Such “smart tags” are already revolutionizing industrial product managment in areas such as shipping, logistics and inventory control.)
In addition to the Web becoming more instrumented and interconnected, with more kinds of devices, objects and sensors feeding into it, another big component of the “new intelligence” is what some called Web 3.0, or the Semantic Web.
This emerging front is about the ability for pieces of data, applications and all kinds of content to “talk” or interact with other informational objects. A picture or video could describe not just when and where it was taken, but what it depicts. A small software program could receive or give instructions on how it might interoperate with another application.
If Web 2.0 — today’s world of social networks and a renaissance in interpersonal communications and user-generated content– is defined by people being better able to share and collaborate, this next phase will enable data and programs to similarly intermingle and generate new innovations.
The Semantic Web is still very much a work in progress, and not the easiest idea to wrap one’s head around, but this clip — Intro to The Semantic Web – offers a brief and accessible overview of some of the main principles.
In a very rough sense, these two ideas together form the foundation of what we’re calling the New Intelligence — an Internet that is wired up to the physical world via many new kinds of sensors, smart tags, and devices, and a new architecture that enables data to start behaving in rich new ways.
In practical terms, this new field of knowledge should help businesses make better predictions and more judicious decisions, and via such an improved management model, reduce risk and facilitate growth. But such an expansion of the intellectual and informational toolbox at our disposal should also pave the way for new areas of scientific research and exploration.
Building a Smarter Planet is a blog intended to provide readers with thought-provoking content and a place to talk about the issues raised within the content. It is our hope that you will feel compelled to share some of the things you see, read and hear on this blog with your friends, family and peers. We feel strongly that this blog is not going to deliver final answers to the issues raised, but that it will represent a starting point for conversation around the issues.