Some call the Internet of Things (IoT) the Intelligence of Things or the Internet of Everything. By whatever name, futurists say it heralds the moment when sensor-driven data connects everything to everything else and artificial and human intelligence become a seamless whole—the planet and virtually everything in and on it transformed into a single, thinking entity.
That is the visionary view. The consensus is astonishing enough: we are in the earliest phases of a technological transformation whose impact will be at least as great as every previous cultural and industrial revolution in human history. Every object, system and technology in our present reality—from office equipment to our physical organs, from defense and security systems to the local grocery store—will be connected, and those connections, thanks to AI-driven data analytics, will make once mute objects into autonomous actors, even co-creators of the future.
According to a 2015 report by the World Economic Forum, IoT will have an enormous impact in every sector of the global economy, from energy and manufacturing to agriculture and transportation—sectors that, taken together, account for nearly two-thirds of the global gross domestic product.
The multiplier effects will be profound, not only for global economies, but also for the daily lives of people everywhere, transforming the most basic elements of human society, from the future of work and school and what goes on our dinner plates to the function of government and the notion of what it is to be human.
“We’re in the beginning of the beginning,” says Alain Louchez, managing director of the Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies, a global research program based at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We’re in the foothills of a huge mountain we have to climb. We can barely guess how big the IoT transformation is going to be.”
The changing workplace will bring a revolution in education, beginning with an aggressive new emphasis on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), a movement that is still in its infancy. Education will become increasingly embedded in daily life as we innovate new tools for collaborative and virtual reality learning that foster more “experiential” knowledge.
One of the first and most innovative wide-scale IoT applications has been in farming. “IoT farming requires multi-sensory solutions where you’re sensing the weather, you’re sensing the soil, the crop and the seeds,” says Melkote, a graduate of Indiana’s Purdue University, which is a leader in smart-farm R&D. Such connected sensors drive data to data-analytics engines and controllers that can micro-manage the release of water and fertilizer to individual plants, a system that can greatly increase productivity growth and efficient land use. Its ability to manage self-driving and otherwise intelligent tractors, harvesters and other heavy-farm machinery, and to incorporate intelligence from increasingly sophisticated satellite imagery, makes IoT a key factor for preventing a massive food shortage in the future.
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How IoT Will Bring a More Connected Future
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