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It’s Gonna’ Be a Noisy World

August 30, 2013

Internet of Things. Internet of Everything. Boatloads of computing devices. Call it what you want, but know that the world is full of sensors, and those are going to connect to the internet/cloud someday, perhaps soon. The Register has a good overview of how that’s going to change, and the routing protocols that have to come to play for it to happen. It’s a good geek story.

The model only works if you have a lot of sensors around, and that poses practical problems because it’s not worth collecting that data if you have to replace sensors every few weeks. Sensor designs therefore imagine devices that are completely stand-alone, communicate wirelessly and can go years between battery replacements (or are “scavenger-class” devices that work on solar or wind power). Sensor designs of this sort mean you can simply affix them to a handy solid object and forget them; having to connect power to every single device would destroy any business case such a sensor network could support.

Essentially, this requires a new protocol, that understands the concept of partially-connected sensors, or sensors that require other controllers to connect.  It’s a complex configuration, and one that today’s computing devices would never use.  It’s totally cool in the way it could change the way devices and sensors connect, and the information that you gain from them.

And honestly, it scares the heck out of me in some ways.  It’s one thing to know if I’m in a room by asking me, or by poking your head in and looking.  It’s another to use room and phone sensors to check my location and voice profile and determine that I’m near the room and have an acoustic signature that indicates I’m there, and not the hallway.  Same result, different way to access it.  I really do try to dodge the, “get off my lawn,” moments, but sometimes…

I’m a guy who will stick a body part in a closing elevator door, because I know it was designed by an engineer.  A good engineer is honest, forthright, and more interested in safety and security than speed.  At least, that’s the way I’ve always seen it.  But complexity is the fastest way to ensure that security and safety are hard, if not impossible.  At least we’re mostly talking sensors, and not servos yet.  I really want to see the security protocols that are going to be in place before I get truly comfortable with this stuff.

(For the record, I don’t have a piece of tape over the cameras on my PCs.)

So I’m optimistic, and I’m cautious.  Let’s enter the inevitable new world with a good dose of suspicion, like good engineers.

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