Internet of Things

The "Internet of Things" is the idea that objects in the world around us can be tagged and connected to the global Internet through those tags.

For the most part, the objects would communicate information about themselves to the network, but in some cases you could envision smarter objects (such as appliances with built-in computers) receiving information from the network, and even from other objects.

RFID tags are cited most often as the mechanism for enabling the Internet of Things. RFID, or radio frequency identification, allows objects to be scanned wirelessly. First applications of RFID were for tagging products, so that they could be tracked throughout a supply chain.

Sensors are another method for connecting the physical world of things with the Internet. The idea of the so-called Smart Grid is a kind of specialized application of the Internet of Things, as applied to the power grid. Each smart meter in the grid would be able to work with the central control to regulate how power is used in homes and businesses.

The Internet of Things would require more IP addresses, which is where IPv6 would come into play.

One observer sees a connection between the Internet of Things and the real estate market. You could envision a for-sale sign communicating to prospective home buyers and giving them all sorts of information on their cell phones.

Some have raised concerns about privacy, if all of the objects around you are generating data that can be tracked, including your security badge and your passport. It’s possible to put tags in subdermal implants, so that animals and even people could be tracked more directly.

However, the technology is not going away. There is just too much potential – so much, in fact, that even its proponents acknowledge that they’re not sure what could be achieved once all of the data from all of the things are being collected. IBM tries to explain the Internet of Things in this video – but mainly says that all the data could lead to information, to knowledge, to wisdom, to a smarter planet.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.