Startups and other innovative young companies led the original charge to build the connected home. It was the same way with the internet and other critical connecting technologies, we now take for granted. Without the dreams and ambitions of startup founders and innovators, the internet might not exist at all, or at least not in a fashion we’d recognise today.
This isn’t to say that the world’s biggest companies can’t also lead the charge in developing and popularising tech to power the connected home — or to power other environments enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, the current wave of IoT development has gained widespread support from a roster of technology giants led by forward-thinking executives. That’s the biggest difference between earlier eras and today. “Big Tech” seems to be embracing the future rather than mocking it, and (we hope) this will create a better world for everyone.
Google is one key example of this shift. The search giant hasn’t been content to be solely a search giant for many years, and its Google X skunkworks have worked on a wide range of IoT projects. Most notable among them is its self-driving car technology, which is now housed within Google’s Waymo subsidiary. Few “things” are more important in our day-to-day lives than our cars, after all.
“There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time.”
Google views IoT technology as the next logical extension of its mission to find and organize the world’s data in a useful way. It’s not too far a leap from saying “OK Google” to ask your phone for help to objects in your environment trying to help you before you even have to ask.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai confirms this when he says, “Today, computing mainly automates things for you, but when we connect all these things, you can truly start assisting people in a more meaningful way. If I go and pick up my kids, it would be good for my car to be aware that my kids have entered the car and change the music to something that’s appropriate for them.”
This is similar to what former Google CEO and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has said about how IoT enables a ubiquitous internet. However, he goes a step further: “The internet will disappear. There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time.”
Google co-founder Larry Page has even grander ambitions for the Internet of Things. Steven Levy’s book, In the Plex, quoted him as saying, “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information. Eventually you’ll have an implant where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.” In this scenario, your body becomes another “thing” interfacing with the internet.
Page isn’t the only one looking forward to leveraging IoT technologies to enhance human capital. Oracle CEO Mark Hurd has previously highlighted ways in which tomorrow’s workforce will need to leverage IoT to get ahead: “As companies begin replacing up to 30 percent of their workforce, they will need thousands of new types of data-native workers to exploit the Internet of Things in the service of the Internet of People.” Hurd also believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will be an important component of our interactions with the IoT, not to mention everything else. As Hurd noted in a recent Forbes podcast, “I think you’ll see AI integrated into most everything that comes to market, and I think it’ll be very exciting.”
Live grilling in my backyard.
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, 23 July 2017
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has certainly come down on Hurd’s side of the argument when it comes to AI. He’s pointed out the upside of beneficial AI for supporting a wide range of important human activities: “Whenever I hear people saying AI is going to hurt people in the future, I think that technology can generally always be used for good and bad and you need to be careful about how you build it. If you’re arguing against AI, then you’re arguing against safer cars that aren’t going to have accidents, and you’re arguing against being able to better diagnose people when they’re sick.” Both of these use cases have the potential to save millions of lives every year, and they’re only a small slice of what’s possible with AI-enabled Internet of Things technologies.
Other tech executives go further in their vision of an IoT-enabled, AI-connected world.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella looks beyond connecting the room or the house to imagine an entire unified connected world: “Digital technology, pervasively, is getting embedded in every place: everything, every person, every walk of life is being fundamentally shaped by digital technology — it is happening in our homes, our work, our places of entertainment. It’s amazing to think of a world as a computer. I think that’s the right metaphor for us as we go forward.”
If that wasn’t encompassing enough, TDK InvenSense CTO Peter Hartwell offers an almost mystical perspective on the “world computer” when he says, “With a trillion sensors embedded in the environment — all connected by computing systems, software and services — it will be possible to hear the heartbeat of the Earth, impacting human interaction with the globe as profoundly as the internet has revolutionized communications.”
Do you agree with these tech leaders? Is the Internet of Things more valuable as a tool to improve human knowledge or as a system to protect human lives? What’s the next frontier for IoT technologies? Will it offer the best advantages in the home or the workplace… or in our own bodies?
This latest article is part of Smarter’s guest blog series written by Enlightened Digital‘s Amanda Peterson. For more great insights in technology news check them out!