It’s hard to deny that digital connectivity has become an integral part of our every day lives. With over a billion users worldwide now on Facebook, and Twitter which provides a platform for news to spread faster than ever before, social networks such as these are allowing us to connect in a way which we’ve never experienced before. Our entire lives are becoming digital as we upload our latest photos to file sharing sites or keep the world updated with status reports. The exponential rise of social networking sites over the past decade has come hand-in-hand with the rise of the smartphone. With over 5 billion devices now active around the world and many people using smartphones as their primary source for accessing the internet. We are constantly connected to the outside world through a device in the palm of our hand.
At the rate in which technology is evolving week-on-week, what does this mean looking for the future of connectivity? How will we engage differently with the new digital world and everything in it? What many have predicted, and some would suggest has already started to happen, is that we will enter into what has become known as the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) will be a layer of digital connectivity on top of infastructure and “things”. We will see companies of all kinds linking things to sensory networks, each other and the internet.
Developments towards this better connected world are already underway. For the past year or so, Google have been working on Google Glass: a pair of glasses which will help make augmented reality a part of everyday life. Using Google Glass the user will be able to take and share photos, video-chat, check appointments and access the internet right from the tiny screen attached to the glasses.
At this years CES in Las Vegas, Samsung announced new TV sets with built-in cameras and microphones as well as an in-air gesture and voice control system called Smart Interaction. The XBox paved the way with the Kinnect for this kind of technology a couple of years ago, but we are now starting to see it implemented into different “things” such as TV’s, PC’s and Cars.
The IoT looks to connect things which inhabit our everyday lives. Things from the physical world with those of the digital will be connected seemlessly in a higher level of connectivity. However, according to this article from Andrew Rose for Wired, he predicts that the IoT will mature in three stages. The first stage consists of objects being linked through QR codes, for example where there is an interaction between the user and “these intelligent systems such as smartphones or web services”. The second stage, which Rose describes as the “intermediary stage”, things develop the ability to sense their surroundings through sensory networks. In the third and final stage, Rose predicts that technology will have reached a level where a device such as a smartphone or web service will become obsolete and things will be able to “sense context and will be able to autonomously interact with other objects, sensors and services”.
So what will be the result of this third stage of intensive connectivity? In this inspiring video on interaction design, Bing mobile architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas talks about a super organism whereby “humans are no longer at the top of the food chain (so to speak). It’s a thing and it has behaviours.” He summaries: “We are part of something bigger and not entirely just our own selves anymore”. Welcome to our new connected world.