I am talking a lot about the Internet of Things, some of its applications and challenges so it would be a shame not to talk about its origins, about its genesis.
A lot of people consider Mr Kevin Ashton to be the first one to talk about the Internet of Things while he was doing a presentation for its employer in 1999: Procter and Gamble. The topic of the presentation was the supply chain management and more particularly how to make it more efficient. Wikipedia and most websites will tell you the same story: Mr Ashton invented the term IoT. He was the first one to tackle the issue and to talk about virtual representation of physical objects in the internet environment, their interactions with us and the crucial importance of these interactions. His definition of the IoT you can find on the RFID journal webpage is the following:
“Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings—by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code. Conventional diagrams of the Internet … leave out the most numerous and important routers of all – people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. And that’s a big deal. We’re physical, and so is our environment … You can’t eat bits, burn them to stay warm or put them in your gas tank. Ideas and information are important, but things matter much more. Yet today’s information technology is so dependent on data originated by people that our computers know more about ideas than things. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.”
As far as I’m concerned I believe it’s one of the best view and definition of the IoT even though I think it lacks some interaction between things gathering human data and not only data coming from the environment…
That is all fine, it is surely true that Ashton came up with the term but the IoT idea, not the term, can be tracked back to the beginning of the previous century. I ran into this article on Postscapes, tracking the internet of things , and I found it passionating. Do you know that Tesla, probably one of the most important visionary genius in the history of human kind said during an interview that “when wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole………and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.” When I read this it gave me shivers.
Later in 1964 Marshall McLuhan the genius of Media Analysis stated this:
”….by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies — including cities — will be translated into information systems“
A bit further down the road, in 1966, a German Computer Science pioneer said “In a few decades time, computers will be interwoven into almost every industrial product“. This can’t be denied today, a lot of industrial product are connected and more and more will be so in the future (see The Chinese Internet of Things article).
John Romke, who worked on the first implementation of TCP/IP for personal computer built a connected toaster in 1990 for the INTEROP conference. More than 20 years before the Nest thermostat a guy was able to turn on and off a toaster through a barely working internet. The Internet of Things got out of people’s brain to become a reality.
In 1999, Mr Ashton, as we said earlier, came up with the term Internet of Things.
We all know the following events, internet grew at an exponential rate, more and more scientists, entrepreneurs and people in general jumped into the revolution. The IoT has been quite left out even though many people were, and still are, working on it. More resources were directed toward eCommerce and later on, Social Networks.
As you can see the genesis of the Internet of Things is not as simple as a phrase said during a presentation by a single man. It involves way more events and persons than that and I am sure we will discover even more interesting facts in the future.