Remember this day. Today was the day you read that non-human objects, internet connected devices like digital picture frames, web-connected GPS devices and broadband TVs, came online with AT&T and Verizon in greater numbers last quarter than new human subscribers did.
In the race to the mobile internet, the machines have quickened their pace beyond what we humans have, at least in the US. Dishwashers, refrigerators, home heating units and other objects are next in line, then perhaps very widespread tiny sensors – and that’s a lot more exciting than it might sound.
We humans are reaching full market penetration and growth in subscription sales to us is slowing down, but there are more potentially-connected objects than there are human beings, and those objects are coming online faster and faster, according to a new report released today by wireless industry analyst Chetan Sharma. As Stacy Higginbotham, who first reported on these numbers, wrote today, “the data indicates that the Internet of things has clearly dawned, and with it, a new arena of competition.”
Above: IBM’s explanation of the Internet of Things.
What Does This Mean for Consumers?
As our own Richard MacManus wrote last month in an article titled Beyond Social: Read/Write in The Era of Internet of Things, there’s an incredibly potent combination coming of social network user activity data, structured data offered as a platform by governments and a tidal wave of data from Things like sensors and connected devices.
Hopefully, the sophistication of connected devices and the data they publish to the internet will continue to grow. Where there are large sets of data, especially data connected to our real-world lives, there is a rich opportunity for data analysis. That analysis can lead to improved personal recommendations, detection of opportunities for innovation, pattern recognition and problem pre-emption, or illumination of inefficient or inequitable allocations of resources that ought to be resolved. This is data as a whole new platform, a greenfield for as yet unforeseeable innovations.
The coming explosion of data won’t just be cross-referencable and sortable by the contact lists of people represented in the data, or patterns of consumption activity by people, as today’s stream of social data is. It will include data points like temperature, tilt, sound, pressure and many other things measurable by the sensors inside the washing machines and heat pumps inside our homes. Transmission of all this data is shaping up to be a major point of competition for data network providers.
Those machines could become co-participants in our social networks as their data comes online and is made available to programmers. Imagine your Facebook news feed: “Your sister Jenny changed her relationship status to ‘in a relationship’ and your toaster is using more electricity than it should be.”
Programmatically readable sensor data isn’t making up the bulk of the growth of object data today, but it likely will in the future.
And the future is fast approaching. Today we learned that the machines are running faster towards it than we are.
Preview: Every time there’s major Internet of Things news, the need to discuss privacy in this sector grows stronger. That’s the subject of a forthcoming post here on ReadWriteWeb.