When the tech industry talks about the Internet of Everything (IoE), it sounds so huge it’s almost intimidating. Executives toss around numbers like 50 billion connected devices by 2015 and hundred-billion-dollar opportunities.
But at the recent Techonomy Labs IoE forum, an idea emerged that’s a little more embraceable on an intimate level. Listening to some of the presenters, it seemed clear that we’ll all soon have our private little versions of the IoE. No one, as far as I can tell, has named this yet, so I’ll call it the Internet of You … or IoU.
Basically, your IoU will consist of hundreds of devices and sensors scattered throughout your own personal bubble—on your body, around your house, in your car—all networked together locally. They will chatter with each other, not necessarily with the larger Internet outside, to better comprehend, optimize, and inform you about your immediate tangible life.
You might think of it as your home, car, and clothes conspiring to take up the slack in the absence of an overprotective mother.
Some of Techonomy’s panelists are starting to live the IoU. Trae Vassalo, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins, sat on stage wearing her Nike bio-sensitive wristband and talked of being a tester for Google Glass. “I’m a walking wearable flag,” she told the crowd. She uses personal devices to track data on her sleep patterns, steps walked, heart rate, locations. “These are just baby steps into a whole new area,” she said.
Personal gadgets are emerging as a new platform for app developers. Users could gain interesting insights into themselves from data mixed and analyzed from different devices. A bio-sensor built into your pants that can detect heart rate and sweat integrated with face recognition from Google Glass and location-awareness from GPS might generate data that points out that you get extremely anxious every time you go to that favorite local dive bar and run into your boss.
Alex Hawkinson has a view into the IoU at home. He’s the CEO of SmartThings, which makes a networked sensors hobby kit. Do-it-yourselfers can link up SmartThings gadgets to do stuff like unlock doors by remote control or turn on certain lights based on who’s home. “My house has a couple hundred connected devices sensing who’s home, the temperature, the door locks,” he said. At the same time, new home-based smart gadgets like the Nest thermostat can learn the patterns and preferences of a household and adjust the environment accordingly.
It’s not a big leap for groups of smart-home gadgets to share data to optimize energy use or understand that the water coming in from a leak in the roof is bad enough to send you an emergency text message.
Cars are perhaps the furthest along when it comes to the IoU, Vijay Sankaran of Ford told the audience. Sensors already are capable of tracking almost everything about a driver’s habits, and no doubt the data could soon be correlated to figure out what kind of music to play to get you to drive slower.
So far, most consumer-connected devices connect wirelessly out to the cloud, sending data back to a central server, rendering your gadgets, in effect, part of the Internet of Everything. Your data, albeit protected, is going out into the world and mixing with other data before it comes back to you. But as smart gadgets proliferate, something new is needed—a hybrid of IoE and IoU.
“I want an Internet of things near me,” said Rob Chandhok of Qualcomm. “There are uses where you don’t want everything to go back to the cloud. If you have 2,000 things in your home, it’s more efficient to connect them locally. Or you sit in your car and have a little local cloud.”
A few years from now, a tablet may act as your personal data center, taking in information from all your body, home, and car sensors, analyzing it with software, sending instructions back out to your appliances, and showing you insights about your life. Your IoU could decide what information to send out to the IoE just as you now decide, in the analog world, what to keep inside your four walls and what to share with others.
“That hybrid of local-plus-cloud—which is hard to do well—that’s the way I think it’s going to happen,” Chandhok concluded. “That blend is really exciting.”
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