What happens when the things in the internet of things disappear?
As the number of devices and sensors explode, consider an internet of things that doesn’t need devices
The growing “internet of things” is viewed by many as a disruptive force that will fundamentally change the global economy, but also the way people everywhere live and work. IoT is expected to be a prominent feature of life for years to come, but what happens in the future when the things start to disappear?
In a new Business Insider op-ed piece penned by Roope Mokka, the futurist and member of Finnish think tank Demos Helsinki, bases his thoughts on the “strongest, long-term trend in technology,” which is the continuous decrease in size of price of equipment and accompanying increase in computing power.
Listing off calculator, camera, game, music, video player and other features in a smartphone, Mokka contends “there is technology worth $100,000 in a phone. … All of which at the date of release have cost more than the iPhone itself when it first entered the market. The iPhone also contains memory that would have weighed tons just a while ago. Now imagine the iPhone getting smaller and smaller and cheaper and cheaper, and incorporating more and more things, before becoming so small and cheap that it ceases to exist. It becomes part of the environment. As technology keeps developing faster and faster, all the technologies that are now in a smartphone will become the size of a piece of paper and be available for the price of a piece of paper as well.”
While it may seem far fetched, this isn’t a new concept. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, discussing the company’s investments into artificial intelligence in a post to the company blog in April, hit on the concept of devices disappearing.
“Today’s proliferation of ‘screens’ goes well beyond phones, desktops and tablets,” Pichai wrote. “Already, there are exciting developments as screens extend to your car, like Android Auto, or your wrist, like Android Wear. Virtual reality is also showing incredible promise – Google Cardboard has introduced more than 5 million people to the incredible, immersive and educational possibilities of VR. Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the ‘device’ to fade away. Over time, the computer itself – whatever its form factor – will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI-first world.”
Mokka sees that transition away from devices as not only inevitable, but hard for many people to grasp.
“What we have to understand is that when technology gets developed enough it disappears, it ceases to be understood as technology; it becomes part of the general man-made ambience of our life,” Mokka writes.
He also hits on the idea of energy harvesting as key to powering the devices, which, from our perspective, have nearly ceased to exist. Power will have to come from somewhere, so emerging technologies like converting Wi-Fi signals into power, will move to the forefront.
Mooka outlines six potential concepts of society:
- Post-choice society – you will never choose to take a certain bus or train, but rather, the quickest way from point a to b. Nor the route that’s most beautiful, most romantic or the one with the best fit to ourselves. Also you will never ever forget your keys, your wallet, your watch or your phone.
- Super resource-efficient society – where for example no building is ever empty, but in good use all of the time. Or a car would never run empty. New appliances and machines will harvest their energy. The energy harvesting professors see talk about huge power plants insane as they are working with smallest of the small energy harvesting sensors.
- Post-ownership society – there is no point in owning anything, in fact ownership might become just a luxury. Instead of wanting to own things we want to own data. Data that concerns us and concerns others. Data might even replace money as the medium of value.
- Post-market society – markets are essentially an information system that is efficient in allocating resources. But we all know that it’s a very basic dump information system. It only transfers one bit of information transaction. The person either bought the thing or not, but we don’t know why. All kinds of crowd buying, owning and commons-based systems may emerge.
- Post-voting society – since we have the capability to know exactly what people do, there’s less need to vote and speculate on certain things as actions can be considered as a vote. Of course there still will be politics, but how and where they will take place is uncertain.
- Post-energy society – since we can be almost certain that energy sensors will need to be energy efficient we know that if sensor revolution will happen, energy harvesting will become everyday. The ability to collect macro, to micro to nano-generation of energy.