If a human being represents a kilobyte of data, and a London bus a megabyte, what would you use to represent a gigabyte? Or a terabyte? Or even a zettabyte?
Any ideas? Well the answers, in corresponding order, are: The London Eye, the BT Tower and the entire continent of Europe. Well done if you said any of those.
Now, taking this unscientific scale to its extreme conclusion, what object or thing could represent the Internet of Things, and the unfathomably vast amounts of data it will generate? Any ideas? The answer is the universe.
This is the theory of Kevin Ashton (pictured below on the far left), the man who invented the phrase ‘The Internet of Things’. Ashton was speaking at an event at the BT Tower on Wednesday evening, attended by V3.
Ashton’s Scale of Data lacks any clear consistency, but the point is clear. The IoT is going to be huge. It is going to be so far beyond anything we have known that our entire understanding and concept of ‘data’ will become useless.
And this is not something that is going to happen, but already is happening. Ashton started with the idea of the mobile phone. These are networked devices that can be used to plot locations, track movements and gain insights.
The Ebola outbreak that ravaged western Africa was controlled by plotting the movement of people through their mobile phones, and working out their connections with other people, to enable officials to plot and then contain the disease.
Another example of the IoT that’s often cited is driverless cars. As vehicles are connected with all sorts of sensors it will enable them to drive themselves and transmit all this data for analysis. This idea is gaining momentum, and even the UK government has approved trials of driverless cars on UK roads.
Ashton pointed out that driverless cars already exist in commercial environments. The giant trucks used in bauxite mines in Western Australia, for example, now operate without drivers (pictured below).
“The self-driving car is already real,” said Ashton. “Five to 10 years from now, every car will have self-driving capability, whether you want it or not. We're 15 years away from cars without steering wheels being available.”
A final example Ashton cited was RFID, a technology he helped create, which is now used in supply chains across the world to track objects and generate data that can be used to make more informed decisions.
All of this was making the point that the IoT is already here and is only going to grow. This led Ashton to pose a final question.
“If you came here tonight thinking 'Is the IoT going to happen to me?’, well it is going to happen to you whether you like it or not. Is it going to be an opportunity or a threat: that’s your choice.”
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