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Internet of things

It’s curious how a term can sometimes slide into the language with little notice. Though I’ve traced it back a decade to the title of an article by Chana R Schoenberger in Forbes Magazine on 18 March 2002, internet of things only struck me as a fixed term worth commenting on after it turned up in my reading three times in the past month.

The second theme is personalisation, linked to what technologists call the “internet of things”. This refers to the way in which increasing numbers of ordinarily mundane objects are becoming wi-fi enabled. Already, for instance, there exist lightbulbs whose colour can be controlled by smartphone.

The Times, 2 Feb. 2013.

The reference is to the way that equipment of many kinds is now fitted with embedded computing technology, not only the obvious items like telephones and video recorders but also your car, your washing machine and your refrigerator as well as your lightbulbs. It is no longer futuristic fiction to suggest your refrigerator might be able to report you’re low on bacon or eggs and order up fresh supplies. Or that a bathroom cabinet might monitor your pill consumption to remind you to take the next dose, organise refills and allow your doctor to supervise your case.

An associated idea is called M2M, machine-to-machine communication:

Often, it means fixing sensors on devices, such as an electricity meter that can relay information on power consumption to a utility. Or attaching sensors in electrical equipment at home which can help you remotely switch on the lights and even lock doors. Sometimes, M2M is also interchangeably used with the ‘Internet of Things’ or the ‘Internet of Everything’ — the next phase of the Internet where everything, including people and objects, will be connected to the web.

Business Today, 20 Jan. 2013.

The concept started with RFID (radio-frequency identity) tags, now widely used to track items during delivery and in stock control, a passive system in which the tags respond to an external wireless command by returning their identity numbers.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 23 Feb. 2013

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Last modified: 23 February 2013.