Part 1 The Internet of Things and Big Data

In my hay days at Cardinal, in the before time… the long, long ago… I was the office philosopher of sorts. The resident futurist. The restless, crazy, outspoken goof that always encouraged us to look at the future – And not just 1-2 years in to the future, but 10+ years out. In doing so, I thought we could be more innovative about our role as a company in a quickly changing world. I wasn’t ever sure if my presentations and various ramblings were just seen as fancy lunch breaks to my coworkers, or genuinely enlightening discussion starters, but either way they were fun, and their point was to start conversations and get everyone excited about the future. In this 3 part-series I intend to do just that.

At Cardinal Web Solutions, we love the Web. We use it every day and our success depends on the success of the companies we help get found on the Web. But what IS the Web? What is this internet? Is it… a place where you look at cat videos? Is it… a place where you troll those videos and make rude insults to random people you’ll never meet? Is it the collective consciousness of our species? A hive mind that enables us to share thoughts and ideas at unprecedented speed and fluidity?

As we’ll find out, the Web is all of these things – and so much more. If you think that the future of the web will only involve what you see on the various screens we interact with every day, you’re in for a surprise. What can really be seen as the “Web” will soon blend the physical and digital worlds, and even WE will be part of the vast network that comprises the web. We already are, in fact, with our mobile devices.

As I see it, there are two closely related trends converging in the next 10 years that will completely transform our designed and built environment – And the way we live our lives. It will all be built around the web.

Ubiquitous Computing and the Internet of Things

Ubiquitous Computing (ubicomp for short) is just fancy terminology for computing that is done outside of what we traditionally think of as computing – Those humming boxes that sit on our desk that are connected to keyboards, mice, monitors, etc. It’s about pervasive computing, computers everywhere – Ambient intelligence. Ubiquitous Computing involves wearable computing – computers embedded in our clothing and worn on our wrists, heads, etc. It’s the idea of not just “smart” phones, but “smart” everything – Smart homes, smart cars, smart clothes, smart furniture, smart cities, smart anything.

nestProducts like the Nest are finally bringing smart home technology to the average consumer for an affordable price. It allows you to monitor your thermostat remotely and save on your energy usage – As well as automate it while you go about daily activities.

Ubicomp will lead to what is being called the “Internet of Things” or the “Internet of Everything”. If you haven’t heard this term thrown around yet, you soon will, as the revolution is already beginning. Though still somewhat of a vague concept still in its infancy, it will inevitably be a gold rush. Cisco has already predicted the market value of products and services involving IoE will reach $14.4 trillion by 2020. It’s only about $1.2 trillion currently.

All of these new devices will be connected to the Web, become interconnected, and in many ways begin to comprise the Web itself. There are already new regulations and standards being devised to prepare for this future. For example, IPv6, the latest revision of Internet Protocol will allow for up to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 unique IP addresses. By comparison, the current version IPv4 has a mere 4.3 Billion IP addresses.

Big Data and Personal Informatics

The other revolution we already in the midst of is the Big Data revolution. Tons of data is constantly being gathered about us through our use of smart phones and the daily activities we do. We will touch on the ethical implications of this in Part 2, but the point is that this is leading to unprecedented amounts of raw data to be sorted through. At Cardinal we heavily rely on Analytics – Sorting through that data and find the meaning in it, so we can see what can be improved to get more customer leads for our clients, or more customers to convert. But it also has huge implications for our personal lives and personal growth.

There is data being gathered on us as individuals. These personal informatics are have often been referred to as the “Quantified Self”. All of the ancient mystics in world religions said know thyself. You will soon be able to in a ways that are increasingly empirical. It often goes hand in hand with gamification, the idea of making your day-to-day activities in life more like a game – A game that you can get better at and eventually kick ass in. These personal informatics will go hand-in-hand with the Internet of Things. Consider these two growing fields:

Health InformaticsFitbit
Big Data will go hand-in-hand with the Internet of Things in the form of products like the FitBit. The FitBit is wearable computing, a device you wear on your wrist that keeps track of your daily fitness activities using an accelerometer. Though somewhat rudimentary, it is a great first step in the world of personal informatics – In this case health informatics. The data it collects can be fed to your mobile device or home computer and you can get a view into your daily activity that was previously impossible or at least very difficult to measure. This ambient intelligence allows for completely new opportunities in personal growth and reaching fitness goals.

Educational Informatics
This is perhaps what I am excited about the most, because it could totally revolutionize education and how we learn. It’s about knowing what you know. Epistemology. The ability to see your conceptual framework of a given subject grow, AS you’re learning it. Your journey of learning something can become more quantified and thus more tangible and malleable. It can make learning more motivating, because it’s not about arbitrary test scores and letter grades, it’s about understanding specific concepts or not. There are no tests and letter grades in real life, you understand things, or you don’t.

DuolingoSome applications, such as the language learning web application Duolingo are already adding elements of this to the learning experience. Not only are you learning Spanish, but you can see how many words you’ve learned, the degree to which you’ve learned them, which ones you need to practice more, etc.

But… What does this all mean?

What this means for the world of Internet Marketing is that the “Internet”, the “Web”, will no longer just be about what we see on the screens we interact with – It will quite literally include everything in the designed and built environment. Mobile will of course continue to grow and become the predominant way that people find businesses, but if you think mobile complicated things – Just wait.

WashingMachineImagine a scenario where your smart washer/dryer, which is connected to the web, does your laundry for you at 4:00 PM like you programmed it to while at work using your smart home control panel application, but then realizes you just ran out of laundry detergent. It can notify your mobile device with specific brands you use, sales going on, etc. and you can either stop by the store to get some more on the way home from work, or immediately purchase it via the web and have it delivered. When you get home, your clothes are washed, dried, and all you have to do is take them out and fold them. Certain companies can pay more to have their products advertised through these smart device systems, in a similar way to how PPC works. This is just one example of the kind of systems we may regularly interact with in the future.

These two trends – Internet of Things and Big Data, are extremely transformative and just around the bend. Consider that as more and more devices begin to make up the internet (Cisco says 99% of objects that can be connected the internet, aren’t yet), we are essentially compressing time and space. In other words, our technology is bridging spacial and temporal distances, and the world is becoming smaller. It effectively means we can be in more places at one time, and can communicate to anything and everything instantaneously. In the next part we will discuss some of the important ethical issues surrounding all of this technology, and then in the third and final part of this series, we will explore the distant future, where predictions become harder to make and it’s more about asking the right questions.