Just imagine, your grandchild or even great-grandchild, sitting on your knee, looking up and asking you, “Please, please, tell me about how what you did helped save the world?” Outside of being Iron Man or Wonder Woman, chances are that scenario probably would not play out for most individuals – that is to say, individuals who are not currently working in the Internet of Things world.
When solicited on IoT, most conjure up thoughts of how in today’s world, the increasing number of devices that can connect to the internet and to each other can make life easier. Many already enjoy the advantages of IoT-based conveniences such as health monitoring; environment control; and, of course, the social applications used across the globe. But what most do not consider within the Internet of Things are the current and potential future uses that serve as critical, potentially lifesaving, factors when the good times go bad.
In many ways, IoT applications being developed today will act as preventive disaster solutions. For instance, the Union Pacific Railroad was using the Internet of Things long before it was cool, placing remote monitoring technologies on its assets, both track and train, to significantly reduce the possibility of derailments – not world-ending events, certainly, but events nonetheless that can lead to personal and community disasters on many scales. The same technologies apply to other forms of transportation, logistics, human support systems, and beyond. The list can go on and on.
On a larger, more global scale, natural, economic, or social disasters can leave us without communications, logistics access, or even simple life-sustaining needs in an instant. When the power leaves, so do support systems, computing power, and internet-based communications. Though many try, via redundancy and recovery systems, workarounds and solutions to problems like power outages and down systems are not implemented immediately. Unfortunately, those first critical moments are when communication systems are needed most, to coordinate first responders, share information with the public, and to enable affected people to check on loved ones. This is where the future headlines of “The Internet of Things Saves the World” are written.
While the planet population grows, so does the IoT device network, estimated to reach 30 billion by 2020. These same devices, normally connected via the internet, have the potential to talk directly to each other without it, through standards like Bluetooth. Recent research argues that these same devices could create a network with enough bandwidth to establish communications and coordinate logistics, even while the internet-absent world shakes around them.
Here is what else some envision:
Connectivity solutions that work around current networking hardware differences; responsive solutions that help devices dynamically respond to their missing internet environment;
Data traffic management solutions to automatically ensure critical communications move to the front of the line, including global first responders – think 911 capabilities that exist today, but on steroids; and
Social conscious solutions that help drive philanthropic behavior needed to make the whole model work. Let’s face it, if the world wants to be able to have IoT save it in its greatest times of need, its users need to allow their devices to be used as relays and part of the communications network. This requirement butts up against simple human nature of wanting to have control.
There will be big challenges, of course, but I seem to recall two brothers who applied their existing technologies, including a lathe and gas-powered engine, to accelerate both business and social growth across the world, through flight. So who is to say we cannot apply the same approach with our own tools, including IoT, and quite possibly, preserve it in the future?
David Spencer is vice president of client services at Virtusa (www.virtusa.com).
Edited by Ken Briodagh