The networked economy and the Internet of things

The Networked World: Introducing the NETVITES.

NETVITES (Network Virtual Interface Through Enhanced Synapsing).

The technology industry is bracing for the new ideal in computing, the internet of things. Yeah, the internet of things, just what in blazes is that, well, it is a type of computing often characterized small, mundane, usually unseen type of computers attached to objects. These devices capture and transmit data about the environment or provide new means of controlling it. For the past a decade and plus, scientists have been engaged in debate with regard to these ubiquitous gadget critters. “There is a lot of quibbling about what to call it, but there’s little doubt that we are seeing the inklings of a new class of computer,” quips David Blaauw, who captains a lab at the University of Michigan that makes functional computers no bigger than my twinkie nail.

A fundamental feature is cheap radios etched right into silicon, there’s one in your smartphone as we speak. Prices are falling with regard to this and as they get cheaper, it is getting more financially palatable to connect things such as trash cans or sewer pipes, or perhaps your toaster, although anyone who has watched the movie franchise, Transformers would think that that is probably not a good idea as it suddenly could transform into a Decepticon sent to spy on earthlings, sentient beings that need a Master Race from Cybertron under the command of Megatron, but the Science fiction is not fiction anymore, everyday technology breakthroughs are taking place enough to make Leonardo da Vinci turn in his grave! Get this, at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers are even designing computers the size of a pinhead to gather data inside the brain and transmit via the skull, is it me or does that sound, tremendously exhilarating, I would have said awesome, but my editor might frown at such liberties! The idea is that humans will eventually join the network,

THE INTERNET OF YOU, ladies and gentlemen! Did you know that a brain has got 125 trillion synapses in the cerebral cortex alone, enough stars to fill 1,500 MilkyWay Galaxies, ponder that!

All these things can sound far-fetched and probably overhyped, at the end of the day, who needs a coffee pot, toaster or even refrigerator that has an installed Web browser, aaaah, hellooo, I do, and you probably do to, you know that! In fact, on Amazon, product reviewers once had a field day regarding a $78 digital “egg minder” that faithfully reports to a smartphone which in the fridge is the oldest, aaah, talk about putting all the eggs in one basket, turns out you can, never having to acquire grey hair worrying of such matters, you have far more important things to think about, like World Peace, Global Warming, a Solar flare coming into earth’s orbit and wiping us all out! As yet for any murder App that was not, there is another computer-sensor combination that has silently added to the capabilities of some machine, Rise of the Planet of the Machines people, be not very afraid! Since the Year of Our Lord, 2007, in the United States, for instance, each new vehicle has had to be fitted with a chip in each tire that measures pressure and relays data by radio to the car’s central computer (eerie music playing the background). The math is adding up. The average new car has got 60 microprocessors in it, well, according to the Center for Automotive Research. And did you know that the electronics account for 40% of the total cost of vehicular production.

This type of computing is especially important for merchants of network systems like Cisco Systems and Aricent. Cisco has been passionately predicting that 50 billion “things”, yes people we are calling them that for lack of a better term or has a nice ring to it (but what if I said “Netvites”, that is Network Virtual Interface Through Enhanced Synapsing, a mouthful, I suppose, but it serves the purpose, or you could just call them “things”) could be linked to communications networks in six years, up from about 10 billion PCs and mobile phones today. Cisco and cohorts won’t be alone in this game of revenue, the $300 billion semiconductor industry will be following suit. Blaaw notes, “Every time there has been a new class of computing, the total revenue for that class was larger than the previous ones. If that trend holds, it means the internet of things will be bigger yet again.”

For every paradigm shift, pain must is a faithful shadow, too. Large companies like Intel are already feeling the pinch from the onslaught of smartphones, not to mention Microsoft. As such, such companies are on pins and needles to find the winning combination of software, interfaces, and processors, for whatever will ensue. Nevertheless, it’s not technology companies that must stay alert. Marshall van Alstyne, a professor at Boston University, gives the reason that as ordinary products become connected, their manufacturers might assimilate themselves into the information businesses whose economics are alien to them. Its one thing to manufacture shoes, but what if that shoe communicates? There is the possibility of products turning out valuable only as the basis of new services. “You might find the data is more valuable than the shoe,” declares Alstyne.

The economics of Netvites is about understanding what new businesses will arise as things get connected. One company that is hammering in the point is Nest Labs that has been making a thermostat that is coupled to the internet. It was acquired by Google and has been bludgeoning the competition in the market. It has a network of thermostats which it can control from a far and it’s even started to offer services to electric utilities. During hot days, it can selectively turn down conditioners, effectively controlling demand. The testing with the utilities market by Nest is still infant, but red-letter day, by just sending a few bits sent across a network, might serve to put one or two or three power plants out of operation, whoa, talk about a small bit sinking a great power plant ship!

Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, the world’s largest manufacturer, told investors in his annual address to shareholders that “every industrial company will be a software company.” A pioneer of the original computer revolution and Microsoft researcher, Gordon Bell says that no one knows exactly what form of computing will take on the Internet of things, but emphasizing that that is unsurprising considering the importance of PCs and smartphones was not clear until they were made. “The ‘internet of things’ is a way of saying that more of the world will become part of the network, that is what is going on. We are assimilating the world into the computer, it is just more and more computers,” he says. So noble folk of the technology court, will you thou not join the revolution!


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