Digital future: the Internet of Things
The digitisation of our living environment has only just begun. In the Internet of Things, scientists see the next big step towards the digitally optimised world of the future. But what role will be left for human beings in such a world?
In the future, cars will not only do their own parking, they will also find the programmed destination without any assistance from the driver; they’ll communicate between themselves, adapt their speed to the flow of traffic, divert to the next filling station, charging point or repair workshop, and they will avoid traffic jams and other obstacles. The first prototypes can already do these things to a frightening degree of perfection.
At the internet giant Google, in California, the German robotics researcher Sebastian Thrun is deeply involved in the development of the computer-guided car. He believes such cars should be made ‘significantly more reliable than cars steered by humans’. After all, those have already been involved in a million fatal traffic accidents around the world. ‘If we’re successful, it will change the world,’ maintains the head of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.
About Sebastian Thrun
In 2011, the robotics researcher Sebastian Thrun was presented with the Max-Planck research award, which is given jointly each year by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Max-Planck Society. You can read more about Sebastian Thrun on the website of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and in an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: ‘Robotik-Spezialist Sebastian Thrun: Verändert er die Welt?’
Billions of networked devices in the ‘Internet of Things’
But it’s not just our automotive transport that’s on the cusp of great changes. In the Internet of Things, defective heating systems will call for a technician themselves – and send an advance fault analysis; refrigerators will order food items when stocks are getting low; and online retailers are already testing the use of drones for the delivering goods.
One-by-one, almost all our every-day objects are being equipped with an internet connection. According to an estimate from the network company Ericsson, in 2020 more than 50 billion devices will be networked around the world.
Tablets with internet connection
In medicine, it is not only in laboratories and clinics that digitisation is taking major strides. Networked medical technology is gradually conquering everyday practice. This will go well beyond just ‘smart watches’ worn on the wrist for optimising our daily workouts and creating personalised training plans that accommodate the latest findings in sports medicine.
The American company Proteus Biomedical, for example, has developed an ‘ingestible sensor and monitoring system’. This is a diagnostics chip that is swallowed as a tablet and then sends its findings to a receiver. Once evaluated, the data can be forwarded as required, directly to the doctor in charge of the case.
The Internet of Things is changing the world – will it also change humans?
What might sound like science fiction is just the logical next step on the path to the digital society of tomorrow. The internet has become the logistical hub in our lives. We’re no longer just permanently online with our computers and smartphones; our machines and household appliances are connecting increasingly to the net. They communicate between themselves, sending and receiving data that they need for their smooth operation. All this will dramatically change our work and our lives in the future. Will it end up changing people, too?
FW: Thinking – What is The Internet of Things?
What do you think about the digital future?
What role will be left for us in tomorrow’s digitised world? Are we in danger of becoming dependent on a technology that, in the end, we’ll no longer comprehend? And what will happen if that technology one day goes wrong? We look forward to your comments!