Internet of Things

Pew Survey: Internet of Things Offers Promise, but Concerns Linger

Last year's Techonomy Lab in Menlo Park, Calif., addressed the impending impact of the Internet of Things.

Last year’s Techonomy Lab in Menlo Park, Calif., addressed the impending impact of the Internet of Things.

Your houseplant emails you when it wants to be watered. Your baby’s diaper texts you when it needs changing. And your refrigerator sends you a shopping list the second you set foot in a grocery store. But when you walk to the ice cream aisle and grab a tub of mint chocolate chip, the shirt monitoring your heart rate tells you you’d better put it back.

This is the future that awaits us, as the Internet of Things encompasses more and more of our everyday lives. And it’s bound to be here within the next 10 years, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Pew’s questionnaire asked 1,606 people, including tech innovators and analysts, whether they believed the Internet of Things will have “widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025.” A majority answered yes.

These beneficial effects are expected to touch everything from individual health, as wearable and even embedded computing monitors vital signs and tracks activity, to community infrastructure, as the Internet of Things smartens up our currently dumb systems of transportation and electricity and water delivery. Manufacturing, the environment, and home management are also likely to see big advances, survey respondents said.

But while the Internet of Things is increasing efficiency and productivity, it’s also raising concerns, namely the fear of government surveillance. If we can connect our cars to our thermostats, our pill bottles to our doctor’s offices, and our kids to our smartphones, some wonder why the government couldn’t also connect to us (more than it already does). These concerns are covered in Pew’s report, too.

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