The current age where privacy is no longer “a social norm” may not long survive the coming of the Internet of Things. Big data is all very well when it is harvested quietly, silently, and stealthily behind the scenes. To a lot of people, the digital Internet still isn’t the as real as the outside world. But it’s going to be a different matter altogether when your things tattle on you behind your back.
Think ahead to the time when everything is smart, and everything is networked, when computing has diffused out into our environment. Imagine for a moment if there were a computer in literally every object in your house. In your office. In your neighbourhood. Imagine computers were blowing in the wind. Imagine if they were literally ubiquitous.
The phrase data exhaust will be not longer a figure of speech, it’ll be a literal statement. Your data will exist in a halo of devices surrounding you, tasked to provide you with sensor and computing support as you walk along. Calculating constantly, consulting with each other, predicting, anticipating your needs. You’ll be surrounded by a web of distributed sensors, computing, and data.
The rush to connect devices to the Internet has led to sloppy privacy, and sloppy security. That can’t continue because if everything is smart, everything will soon be measuring, calculating, and weighing your life. Big data will be distributed and ubiquitous. Suddenly its not just your email, or the photographs of your cat, but your heart rate, your respiration rate, how, and who, you slept with the night before.
The Internet of Things is coming, and with it will come a whole new set of big data problems that can’t be ignored.
Alasdair Allan is a scientist and researcher who has authored over eighty peer reviewed papers, eight books, and has been involved with several standards bodies. Originally an astrophysicist he now works as a consultant and journalist, focusing on open hardware, machine learning, big data, and emerging technologies — with expertise in electronics, especially wireless devices and distributed sensor networks, mobile computing, and the "Internet of Things.” He runs a small consulting company, and has written for Make: Magazine, Motherboard/VICE, Hackaday, Hackster.io, and the O’Reilly Radar. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.
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