One of the fundamental principles behind Smarter Planet is the concept of instrumentation – that inanimate objects can be embedded with sensors and connected wirelessly to the Internet. This enables us mere human objects to effectively communicate with those formerly inanimate objects. The hope is that as we are able to collect data from these embedded objects and analyze it we’ll be able to make better, more informed decisions based on all the available information we have.
It’s a concept a number of us here on this blog have talked about in the past (see prior posts from Andy Piper, Jack Mason and myself). If you look at it at the individual object level, it seems fairly novel and can be construed as gimmicky. Houses that tweet? Andy Stanford-Clark, one of our favorite fellow IBMers who has really pioneered this topic, has “instrumented” his house, the local bus, even the local ferry boat to give the public information about this (more on Andy below). But think beyond the individual object to thousands or even millions of embedded objects acros entire systems – say transportation, or food, or healthcare or shipping or even natural ecosystems – think of the incredible benefits we could reap.
This requires, of course, better analytics to makes sense of it all. But coupled together (data+ analytics) it’s truly the next transformative era of computing. As others have stated before, if Web 1.0 was characterized by connecting people to content, and Web 2.0 is connecting people to people, then Web 3.0 is certainly connecting objects to people and to eachother. The Internet of things. Tim O’Reilly has also been talking about this for a while.
What got me onto this topic recently were two nice pieces from Read Write Web (here and here) stemming from a conversation Richard MacManus had with Andy. From the second post, I share this bit talking about some of the real life applications of this kind of instrumentation:
This month IBM made an agreement with Matiq, an IT subsidiary of Norway’s largest food supplier Nortura. The project involves using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to track and trace poultry and meat products “from the farm, through the supply chain, to supermarket shelves.” This food tracking solution will help ensure that meat and chicken are “kept in optimal condition throughout the supply chain.” The system uses IBM’s WebSphere RFID Information Center, together with IBM’s sensor and actuator solutions.
Matiq offers a great example of instrumenting a food system. But what about if we start to connect that to an instrumented healthcare system and an instrumented traffic and transportation system. You start to see the possibilities of this “system of systems” concept we’ve been talking about in the context of our Smarter Cities conversations.
We’ll continue to probe further here on this blog on the opportunities for the Internet of things. Stay tuned next week for a deeper discussion on the privacy implications of all of this – a key concern that must be addressed at the outset.