What if I told you that you could use the internet to track your elderly grandmother’s movements to ensure that she was alive and well? Or that you’re near-full garbage bin could signal to the garbage depot that it’s time to stop by for a collection? What if you’d forgotten to take your daily medication and a sensor in the bottle itself could send you a friendly text as a reminder? To me, these applications of technology seem like an odd combination of the Truman Show and sci-fi madness, when in reality these particular connections already exist.
These relationships rely on what has been termed the ‘Internet of Things’, where internet connections are bringing previously passive objects to life through the use of networked sensors and RFID tags. Bleecker (2006) refers to these connected objects as Blogjects – blogging objects – and suggests that once the objects are connected to the internet, they become enrolled as active participants contributing to social exchange and conversation.
In a society alarmed by the marketing data collection of platforms such as Facebook, we can be assured that the internet of things is at the heart of privacy and security concerns.
With these networked sensors and tags already finding their way into cars, household appliances and clothing for tracking and monitoring purposes, consider what digital footprints are being left behind by consumers. As Bleecker (2006) puts it ‘where our blogjects go, someone always knows’.
No longer will it simply be our age, postcode, and comparably trivial private information that is available as data, it will be our travel routes and destinations, the time we leave for work and arrive home, what we have for dinner, when, with whom and so on and so forth.
So what happens if this data falls into the wrong hands? What happens when the human population begins to behave differently when our every move is being monitored by physical objects in our homes, in public and out of our direct control? Who exactly are we empowering by these connections, ourselves or the ‘things’?
Bleecker, J 2006, ‘Why Things Matter’, A Manifesto for Networked Objects.