The report takes a look at the next step in “always on” communications, in which new technologies like RFID and smart computing promise a world of networked and interconnected devices that provide relevant content and information whatever the location of the user. Everything from tires to toothbrushes will be in communications range, heralding the dawn of a new era, one in which todays Internet (of data and people) gives way to tomorrows Internet of Things.
We are heading towards what can be termed a ubiquitous network society, one in which networks and networked devices are omnipresent. Early forms of ubiquitous information and communication networks are already visible in the widespread use of mobile phones today: there were over 1.8 billion mobile phones in circulation by the end of 2004, and the number is set to surpass 2 billion by the end of 2005. Mobile data applications such as SMS, i-mode and Vodafone Live! have brought Internet-like services to the pockets of many mobile phone users. But what if much more was connected to a network: a fridge, a car, a cup of tea?
At the dawn of the internet revolution, users were amazed at the possibility of contacting people and information across oceans and time zones, through a few clicks of their mouse. In order to do so, however, they typically had to sit in front of a computer device (PC) connected to a global network. Today, they can also use mobile phones and portable laptops. The next logical step in this technological revolution (connecting people anytime, anywhere) is to connect inanimate objects a communication network. This is the vision underlying the Internet of things. The use of electronic tags (e.g. RFID) and sensors will serve to extend the communication and monitoring potential of the network of networks, as will the introduction of computing power in everyday items such as razors, shoes and packaging. Advances in nanotechnology (i.e. manipulation of matter at the molecular level) will serve to further accelerate these developments.