The Internet of Things in your trousers
I’ve written a lot about how the internet and social media are changing the boundaries between private and public in the virtual world, and new developments look set to take this into the physical world as well.
Most futurologists agree that we’re heading towards a world of smart, connected devices that all communicate using the internet to keep in contact, update each other and help make our lives easier. The oft-touted example (I remember using it nearly a decade ago) is a drinks machine that automatically sends a message when it is running out of particular flavours.
There are hundreds of applications for this Internet of Things (or IoT) for short, which is being driven by a broad range of companies, including Cambridge-based Neul, founded by some of the original brains behind Cambridge Silicon Radio. Remote monitoring for healthcare, helping find a parking space or being able to track how many people are in a building all deliver benefits. But what happens when chips embedded in everyday objects start communicating at other times? There are already scales that will tweet your weight to the world, so imagine taking that a step further and your coat or jeans telling the world where it is, along with your inside leg measurement.
While it sounds far-fetched, privacy is something that people do guard jealously – and even if they don’t regulators such as the EU will be monitoring on their behalf. Simply providing opt-outs isn’t enough as they are often fiddly to find and amend, which means many people don’t bother changing them. So if the Internet of Things isn’t going to become a front page Daily Mail story on Big Brother surveillance, now is the time to put in place the safeguards to prevent rogue tweeting by trousers or even emailing by your Edam.