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From Fritz Langs ‘Metropolis’ in 1927 thru Blade Runner, Terminator, Minority Report, The Matrix and countless others, Hollywood has long been supplying us with a view of what the world would be like when the machines took over and to be honest its rarely looked good. Megalomaniac robot rulers, psychotic cyborgs and out of control operating systems seem to reinforce the message that the more we try to make machines think like us the more they’ll start to act like us and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
However, back on the real world developments in the Internet of Things are starting to deliver real life technologies that would have Spielberg and his Hollywood friends feeling quite smug these days.
Its arguable that IBM started the trend of mainstream companies launching ‘moonshot’ concepts that seemed straight out of sci-fi when they launched the personal computer in 1981 but there have been lots of breakthrough technologies since, most recently with Google and their self driving cars raising the stakes in 2011 and Amazons delivery drones just stepping the game up another notch late last year. Alongside this we have Google Glass, Project Loon (thousands of floating balloons providing WiFi to remote areas), Elon Musks SpaceX and arguably even Tesla electric cars all of which just reinforce the great Sci-Fi writers Arthur C Clarkes, 2nd Law of Prediction which is that “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible”.
Some would say that many of these technologies even stray into the realms of his 3rd Law (my personal favourite), which states that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”,which to be honest all of the greatest technological breakthroughs could probably have been accused of at some point. Remember, its said that during the first public showing of the Lumiere Brothers 50 second film ‘L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat’ , (the Arrival of the train in the La Ciotat Station) in 1896 many audience members actually ran screaming from the cinema. Beat that Spielberg !!!!
On the face of it though a lot of these projects don’t seem very real to people, they just seem like great ways to get publicity for companies that unlike our friends in Red Bull don’t have a supply of crazy Austrians to jump out of spaceships for them but in reality they are just the precursors of the next generation of IOT and all of them are creating technologies that will play a big part in our lives in a couple of years.
All of the mainstream car manufacturers have already demonstrated driverless vehicles of some description and the general consensus is that the technology is available but it’ll be at least 2025 before we have the regulations in place to make them mainstream (who do you sue if you’re injured in a crash between two automated vehicles ???). Unmanned drones have been used for military purposes for years and with a quick search online I can buy a remote controlled drone to carry my GoPro camera for around $500 so the technology exists and its widely available, its just a matter of finding the use cases to justify it. Amazon obviously have use case and they have the technology but as a B2C company they also have the human factor to deal with. There is a genuine concern that ‘drone hunting’ will be a major problem for them, as was recently brought to my attention by our good friend, Mike Fahrion in B&B Electronics (www.bb-elec.com) an expert in the quirky side of IOT.
Goodyear, for example, reports that their blimps regularly come home full of bullet holes so one can only assume that delivery drones would make equally tempting targets. The problem will only get worse when the marksmen realize that an accurate shot could reward them with anything from a free iPad Mini to a holiday sampler of sausages and cheese. (Provided that you’re shooting them down on the outward journey, of course. If they were returning to the warehouse empty they’d only be high tech skeet.)
The town of Deer Trail, Colorado, is so sure that people would enjoy drone hunting that they’re considering issuing drone hunting licenses. The vote won’t be held until next month, but the polls are currently more than 7 to 1 in favor. At $25 the drone hunting licenses will be cheaper than a Colorado fishing license, and you’ll get a $100 bounty if you bag a genuine U.S. government drone. Not as lucrative as downing an iPad Mini, perhaps, but a pretty good ROI just the same.
Deer Trail expects that drone season will be great for tourism. Read more about it here:http://www.inquisitr.com/1067162/drone-hunting-season-colorado-judge-says-lets-vote/
Another area where the technology is available and desperately needed in the field, is in Positive Train Control (PTC), a function that allows trains to automatically slow down when approaching dangerous sections of track thus avoiding potential derailments. I covered this extensively in a recent blog (The Internet of Things – Is Saving Lives a Feature or a Benefit ?) and again like driverless vehicles it’s the lack of suitable regulations that are slowing down its introduction.
So surprisingly enough, the third Phase of IOT, the concept of Remote Operation of Machines in the field is possibly the one that’s most advanced from a technology perspective, its actually other factors that are slowing it down. The early stage field trials from visionaries like Amazon, Google and Tesla may seem crazy but by introducing the ideas and proving that the technology works they are forcing discussions at government and industry levels that will open the doors for the next generation of innovators to capitalize on. We won’t be seeing robot street cleaners, remotely controlled shop assistants or droid delivery guys in the next year or so but the reality is they’re not as far away as you might think.
So now that we know what’s coming, we can turn our attention to the last and final Phase of IOT to see where that will take us.
Tune in next week for Phase 4 EXTEND – Provide Enhanced Digital Services & Content.
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