Sci-fi and The Internet of Things

Today the internet connects everything. Almost all technological devices and an increasing number of objects are now networked online.  It’s not too hard to imagine the world depicted in “Surrogates” where humans live in isolation and only interact through their robots. The Internet of Things is the term used to conceptualise how physical objects have been networked into the digital age occupying both physical space AND a position in the virtual world. Essentially these objects are ‘things’ which were once quite passive now have an active role in the overall online community.

‘Blogject’ is a term coined by Bleecker used to highlight the fact that objects are now recording information onto the internet and in a sense keep a ‘blog’. Not a literal one- but the broadcasting of information, the collation of data and the interpretation of fact, taking place within the internet.

These objects are not just recording information and posting it online – they have the ability to interact with that information as well. Live traffic websites automatically monitor traffic flow, accidents and traffic patterns. GPS systems now have in built capabilities to access this information and adjust suggested routes accordingly. But consider Die Hard 4.0 where hackers manipulate that data (Stage 1 of the Fire Sale) causing changed traffic conditions, and inability for the network to effectively distribute the traffic flow causing accidents, congestion and confusion.

Previously water, electricity, internet and gas systems monitored usage so cost could be allocated. Now the grid uses that data to monitor and track patterns of usage and in the event of a surge or malfunction it has the ability to react and redistribute resources independently. For example, in the event of a water main rupture, the system has the capabilities to identify the problem and alert the necessary respondents. It can then redirect water flow to minimise both the affected area and ensure surrounding areas remain unaffected.

There are smaller, more personal applications as well. The ability to turn your home lights off from anywhere using a smart phone, a drink bottle that makes sure you stay hydrated by monitoring your exercise, drinking and local weather conditions, or a smart teddy bear which can communicate message from family members to children through internet and mobile networks.

Science fiction uses these concepts, our imagination of the extensive possibilities but also our fear of the unknown to enhance the potential negative impacts of The Internet of Things. The examples are numerous; Terminator, The Matrix, 1984… all of these present the risks of this extensive interconnected network. There are real life applications which can be beneficial in the short and long term, however we need legal understanding and policy to keep up with the fast rate of growth of these ‘blogjects’ to prevent the creation of the sci-fi dystopia.

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