The trillion-device world is our future

The global phenomenon that is the 'Internet of Things' is evolving at an astonishing rate, while everyone races to connect to the world in new and creative ways. There are plenty of problems to juggle around, such as increased security concerns from interconnected devices, but despite this companies cannot get enough.

Currently, IoT devices wow us when they promise to connect our refrigerators with our coffee makers, a feat that was unthinkable only a decade ago. Connected homes are emerging, with hub devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung leading the way. In the eyes of Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley, the future IoT-centric world will not dabble in simple fridges and coffee makers - it will be a world of a trillion devices, existing not only around us, but within us.

This conclusion was expressed at DARPA's 'Wait, what?' Forum on future technology this week. The smartphone, in his eyes, will be better identified as one among a series of billions of sensors existing all around us. Every object we can think of could be connected, whether it's phones, furniture, or even our own brains.

Imagine if, for online searches, you only had to speak the search term out loud and results would be displayed, or phone calls would be made, or a robot could be instructed to start cleaning or prepare a meal. These notions might seem quite futuristic to us now, but the future may be a lot closer than it seems.

Taking a step further, Pam Melroy believes that the brain-machine interface is a legitimate future for this kind of technology, where merely thinking about something generates a need within the market and, in turn, provides the item for you. The possibilities of this kind of technology could be virtually endless.

Despite this optimism, progress is still being hindered in various ways. First, the size of a network required to support this many connected devices simply cannot be supported at the moment. Security will also need to be upgraded to ensure that all devices are not under threat of being hacked - this includes our brains! Finally, as a cloud-based approach the cloud would have to be expanded substantially to accommodate all the data created by these devices.

As with all big steps towards connectivity, personal privacy will continue to be a problem for users. However, it is something that we have been facing for the past few years. As Melroy notes, she doesn't "fear technology". The trick in her eyes is to match the pace of social evolution with technological change.

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