Internet of things and smart cities - girlsplained.
Welcome to another issue of Girlsplaining, where I - a girl - explain things. I don't pretend to be an expert on these topics; in fact, I am not. But I'm a fast learner, and I can easily explain the basics to increase your chances of someday winning 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' with every article you read.
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As natural succession to my last email about Big Data, we need to talk about the Internet of Things (IoT). Plus, I was lucky enough to have this topic win in the survey I ran last week, and since I am not a dictator, I will honor those votes by explaining it today.
Hold on to your panties because this issue is about to get interesting.
What’s the internet of things?
The name is self-explanatory. It refers to things connected to the internet. End of email.
This concept does refer to things connected to a network but is also a lot more. To properly define it, I need to explain first what the Internet is.
The Internet is short for interconnected networks and “is a globally connected network system facilitating worldwide communication and access to data resources through a vast collection of private, public, business, academic and government networks.” Meaning, it is a huge network that connects to other networks to communicate with them without being close to each other.
Computers are the things that connect to the Internet, and when I say "computers," I don't necessarily mean the laptop you have at home. I’m talking about any device that can understand, store and process information.
The IoT allows historically analog things to become smart. Light bulbs, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, orchards, rings, clocks, speakers, and even entire cities.
What does that mean?
It means the way we interact with devices is changing forever, and, to me, that’s the most interesting aspect of this topic.
A few years ago, a speaker was just a speaker. Now, it’s a speaker, but also a VA who can shop for us, announce the weather, give us the time, tell us jokes, call, and answer any question that’s on Google.
Now, we interact with things as if they were fellow humans. Even if our brain is still different from computers, the fact that they can understand and process our requests opens the door to interacting with them as we’d do with regular people. The movie ‘Her’ is not fiction anymore.
Even though not everything connected to the internet can answer us, it can help make our lives better.
For example, a smart vacuum cleaner, could clean our house while we’re at work, grocery shopping, or even sleeping.
We could even find bigger scenarios. There are smart irrigation systems for industrial farmers, which connect online to weather applications to modify the schedule and frequency of irrigation depending on the data they receive.
On a much bigger scale, we’ll find smart cities.
Smart cities? What is that?
Cities or countries that use information and communication technologies (ICT) in their infrastructure to guarantee:
“A sustainable development.
An increase in the citizens quality of life.
Greater efficiency of available resources.
Active citizen participation.”(1)
In 30 years from now, it’s expected that 70% of the world population will live in big cities, which means that some things need to change to reduce carbon impressions, electricity usage, traffic, food supply, and general services.
Living in a city where we never have to wait for the traffic light to change to cross the street when no cars are passing by, drive on less congested roads, or have the lights in our houses turn themselves off is possible in Singapore.
This is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to smart cities. Since 2014 they have been investing in cameras and sensors that allow obtaining real-time information about the inhabitants.
More about Singapore:
But not everything is as cool as it sounds ...
While smart cities have their benefits, they also have risks. To collect all the information from the inhabitants, these cities have to be mined with cameras and sensors connected to a network. What can lead to:
Being controlled and manipulated by the government as in any dystopian novel (1984, Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.)
If one service fails, many more can fail, thanks to interconnection.
If the network gets hacked, the city shuts down, generating chaos on an enormous scale.
Although I find smart cities fun to visit, I think I would be terrified to live in one of them. Because as I read once in the prologue of Brave New World, "in the future, the world is going to be ruled by machines, and it is going to end when the machines are turned off." And I'm not ready to live in a place where things are not fixed when connecting and disconnecting the router.
Look at all the things you learned today:
The Internet is a network of networks.
The Internet of Things (IoT) turns commonly analog objects into smart devices.
Computers are not only laptops. They are devices that reason, understand, and learn.
The Internet of Things changes the way we interact with devices.
The IoT can be present both in light bulbs and in industrial irrigation systems or smart cities.
Smart cities use the internet to improve people's quality of life by using their resources efficiently.
Singapore is one of the most advanced countries on this matter.
The risk of connecting everything to the internet is that if the networks are compromised, they can stop an entire country.
Thanks for reading. I hope you learned something. If so, please recommend it, leave a comment if you want me to explain any particular topic, or buy me a beer if you truly enjoyed it.
Amazon finds that use IoT:
CIRCUL Sleep and Fitness Ring - This ring records all your body data. Beats per minute, steps walked, distance traveled, calories burned, blood oxygen level, and sleep stages.
Alexa, Echo dot- If you want a smart speaker, Alexa is one of the best options. It is economical and can answer these types of questions "Alexa, what is the best Bad Bunny song?"
Amazon Roomba- Vacuuming the house is a tedious task. Let Roomba, the smart vacuum cleaner, do it for you while you use that time to live your life.
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