Think Bigger

I get frustrated by those who take a narrow view of technology, and progress in general. They see things in terms of where they are now, and where they were. But they struggle to see a bit further out. The Internet of Things is a good example of this.

I made the mistake of reading the comments on a recent El Reg article (I know, I know: Never read the comments). I came across this comment about the IoT:

…The innocent child asked “but why would the toaster need to talk to the ‘fridge?” The marketing gurus had no answer and a few years later the outfit went bankrupt. In all the time since, no one has been able to answer that question.

From there the comments devolved into a rather pointless discussion about milk, bread, spam on toast and Twitter. This is a fairly common theme on El Reg articles (along with “cloud has little appeal for 90% of SM server/computing requirements”, but that’s another issue).

I find it frustrating when people take a narrow, short-sighted view when looking at technology trends. We all see things from our own perspective, but it’s good to lift your head up, and look a bit further out.

It’s easy to throw out a few disparaging lines about new technologies that aren’t fully developed. But why not try thinking positively about change? Think further ahead, about where we’re going, not just where we are.

To carry on with the IoT example, think what it could mean to have cheap sensors everywhere, collecting masses of data, with the ability to make sense of it all. Thinking beyond our own humdrum challenges of re-stocking the fridge, what else could we do?

Here’s a few random examples:

  • Lots of soil moisture and chemical composition sensors spread throughout an orchard, rather than just a few. Then irrigation and fertilising could be better targeted, reducing costs and improving crop yields. There are similar applications here for better targeting of frost-prevention measures.
  • High detail pedestrian traffic analysis in busy environments such as airports, stadiums and public transit systems. This could be used to tweak layouts to improve flow and safety. Sadly it would probably be used to figure out where to best place the shops to sell me crap I don’t want, but I guess you can’t win them all.
  • Water utility companies with thousands of sensors across their network. With enough data & the right analysis, we should be able to quickly identify anomalies. That should lead to faster leak identification, rather than waiting for the puddle to form.

Not an Internet-connected fridge in sight.

I don’t know how the IoT will all work out. But I do know that it won’t just be about fridges talking to toasters. And I do know that those who benefit will be those who take a positive view of future possibilities, rather than staying stuck in their current mindset. And that doesn’t just apply to the IoT.