When we write about Internet of Things we explain the latest in futuristic “sense and share” devices for your clothes, homes and cars. Yet when it comes to modern mobile, we don’t need to focus so much on what can be done in the future as much as what can be done right now. Our phones’ ability to “sense and share” is well established. Explaining what your phone can currently do is an ideal way to explain what everyday objects will be able to do once they become Internet of Things objects.

At a recent Google summit on wireless sensors, Deborah Estin, director of the Center for Embedded Network Sensing at UCLA spoke of three simple ways our phones already work the way the future Internet of Things will work. Estin’s presentation, Participatory Sensing: An Emerging Driver For The Multidimensional Internet, explains what we’ll one day be able to do for not only our own health but for the health of the world we live in.

IoT Waste Management

The first project Estin explained is about how UCLA investigated garbage on campus by getting students to use their phones to take pictures of garbage cans, then geo-tagging and loading images to Flickr. With this system the school learned where it needed more trash and recycling bins, as well as how the flow of garbage changed over the academic year.

IoT for Personal Health

Using a phone to track what you eat is not exciting or futuristic. Yet what if that data was working for you online and it suggested nearby locations for healthy food it knew you liked? This project currently only exists as a way for your phone to regularly ask what you eat and then store the information online in a secure way. But in time your phone will read RFID tags so you can be alerted to stores that feature foods tailored to your dietary needs.

IoT for Environmental Hazards

The third project gathers your daily location data and cross references it with air pollution reports. As air pollution monitoring in the Los Angeles Basin becomes more sophisticated, so too does your awareness of your own health. This system of data gathering is what Estin calls a Personal Environmental Impact Report. This leads to more accurate data to review with your doctor if you’re in need of diagnosis or treatment.

These sensors systems that are currently in your phone will soon be everywhere. Now more than ever the need for open-source standards is a necessity. If we’re ever to feel comfortable about more and more machines monitoring us, we have to be sure that the machines don’t violate our rights. We need as much transparency as possible as to how we share control of all these machines.

Photo from Wikicommons

deane rimerman