So I can hardly remember a world without the Internet, television, or travel.
Yet if the world, as created, is just under 6,000 years old, then we only have these critical interconnections with each other for the last 100 years…that’s only a tiny fraction of world history or less than 2%!
Pervasive and invasive communications and travel like the Internet (1990), television (1927), commercial airplane (1914), and mass produced automobile (1908) have expanded our personal universes.
Yes, some people look back with nostalgia yearning for the simpler times and “the good ‘ol days,” but they forget how on one hand, mundane it was and on the other, how unstable and violent it tended to be.
Now with social media, smartphones, 24/7 news coverage, and world travel, connecting with people and events irrespective of distance or even language is taken for granted, and we are always on and expected to be (the last part is one downside for sure).
Still yet to be conquered, but I am sure not that far away, is connecting outside of our own world and irregardless of time…reach forward or back and across the vastness of the stars–it’s all one.
Frankly, I do not know what I would do in a world limited to just 25 miles and not being able to get connected online, anytime, anywhere…what a boring and small world that must’ve been.
In the same way, once we reach beyond our own world and routinely travel to and settle on other worlds, and can reach beyond the present into the past and the future, I think the next generations will be astonished at how small we too have lived.
This is a good video on creating a smart house by a company called SmartThings.
Building on Facebook’s social graph where we are all connected in the social realm, SmartThings has developed the concept of the physical graph, where all things are connected and are programmable.
While most of us still don’t see the real need for our toasters and fridge to be connected to the Internet and wouldn’t pay more for it, SmartThings has some cool ideas that may just yet help the smart home market actually take off.
The obvious–turn on/off lights, fans, and appliances; adjust thermostats, and monitor your home through security cameras over the Internet.
The not so obvious–
– Add a “presence tag” and the home can sense when you arrive/leave and take appropriate action to adjust lights, temperature, security system, and so on.
– Add a open/shut sensor and you can know if you left a door or cabinet open or if someone (like the kids) is getting into the liquor closet or a small child into the cabinet with dangerous cleaners and chemicals.
– Add a “moisture sensor” and you can be alerted to broken water pipes.
– Add a “smart service” and you can notify the plumber about the water emergency at your home.
– Add smart apps by 3rd party developers and you can get notification when there is a severe weather alert and you left the windows open.
– Add “party mode” and you can have the patio lights, blender, music and disco ball going on for some fun.
I like the look of the app they’ve created to control all these things on your Smartphone–simply choosing your location (home, office, etc.), room, and then physical item that you want to remotely monitor or control.
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal (23 Feb. 2013) take this “smart” concept yet further to where we actually start giving up control to the devices themselves and asks “Is smart [technology] making us dumb?”
– Cars sense when we are tired and attempts to drive for us or they detect we are driving too fast or reckless and notifies our insurance company.
– The scale sees that we put on a few pounds and contacts the personal trainer for an appointment for us or won’t allow us to heat up the pizza when we slide it into the microwave.
– The toothbrush senses that we brushed a little too quick today and urges us to brush a little more.
– The trashcan detects that we did not separate out the recyclables and splashes this embarrassing information on Facebook.
– The washer detects high water usage this month and suggests we hold off on the next load.
The WSJ comes to a distinction between “good smart” and “bad smart,” where good smart gives us more information for better decision-making and the control to execute on it, and bad smart is where you “surrender to the new technology.”
While I agree with Google’s CFO who said “The world is a broken place whose problems…can be solved by technology,” I also believe that “smart design” means that we remain the masters and the technology remains the slave.
Technology is a tool that can help us solve-problems, but we are the problem-solvers and we must learn through trial and error and a maturation process so we can continue to address ever larger and more complex problems.
Giving up control to technology may make sense if we are about to harm ourselves or others–like with having automatic stopping on a car backing out and about to hit a little child–but it doesn’t make sense in directing the personal decisions that we see fit for ourselves.
Sometimes we will be right and other times, very wrong, but that is living, learning, growing, and being human beings accountable for our actions–not being another automaton hooked to the physical graph. 😉
David Siegel has written a book called “Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web To Transform Your Business” (Dec. 2009).
The main idea is that businesses (suppliers) need to adapt to a new world, where rather than them “push” whatever data they want to us when they want, we (consumers) will be able to get to the information we want and “pull” it whenever we need it (i.e. on demand).
Siegel identifies three types of data online of which less than 1% is currently visible web pages:
Public Web—what “we normally see when searching and browsing for information online: at least 21 billion pages indexed by search engines.
Deep Web—includes the “large data repositories that requires their internal searches,” such as Facebook, Craigslist, etc.—“about 6 trillion documents generally not seen by search engines.”
Private Web—data that “we can only get access to if we qualify: corporate intranets, private networks, subscription based services, and so on—about 3 trillion pages also not seen by search engines.”
In the future, Siegel sees an end of push(i.e. viewing just the Public Web) and instead a new world of pull (i.e. access to the Deep Web).
Moreover, Siegel builds on the “Semantic Web” definition of Sir Tim Berners-Lee who coined the term in the 1990s, as a virtual world where:
Data is unambiguous (i.e. means exactly the same things to anyone or any system).
Data is interconnected (i.e. it lives online in a web of databases, rather than in incompatible silos buried and inaccessible).
Data has an authoritative source (i.e. each piece of information has a unique name, single source, and specified terms of distribution).
While, I enjoyed browsing this book, I wasn’t completely satisfied:
It’s not a tug of war between push and pull—they are not mutually exclusive. Providers push information out (i.e. make information available), and at the same time, consumers pull information in (access it on-demand).
It’s not just about data anymore—it’s also about the applications (“apps”). Like data,apps are pushed out by suppliers and are pulled down by consumers. The apps make the data friendly and usable to the consumer. Rather than providing raw data or information overload, apps can help ready the data for end-user consumption.
All semantics aside, getting to information on the web is important—through a combination of push and pull—but ultimately, making the information more helpful to people through countless of innovative applications is the next phase of the how the web is evolving.
I would call this next phase, the “user-centric web.” It relies on a sound semantic web—where data is unambiguous, interconnected, and authoritative—but also takes it to the next level, serving up sound semantic information to the end-user through a myriad of applications that make the information available in ever changing and intelligent ways. This is more user-centric, and ultimately closer to where we want to be.