IoT: a hub for social change

Expect the Internet of Things to play a positive force in easing the impact of the hugely disruptive societal changes we can expect to undergo this century. With its billions of interacting, smart, programmable, locatable, interconnecting,...


Expect the Internet of Things to play a positive force in easing the impact of the hugely disruptive societal changes we can expect to undergo this century. With its billions of interacting, smart, programmable, locatable, interconnecting, sensing and actuator devices, it looks set to play a leading role in a considerably more technocratic society.

The main societal (and business) disruption during this century is likely to come through climate change and increasing energy scarcity.

Some of today's young radical thinkers expect this to result in an accelerating collapse of the centralisations that enable today's just-in-time business and commerce. They see a return to more localisation with communities maximising the use of their capital goods and growing cottage industries. Cottage industries evokes rural communities but, especially with the continuing population migration and consolidatiom into cities this situation, I believe, applies equally to intra-urban communities.

I reckon long term this is a likely scenario, and also that the Internet of Things can play a strong role in enabling localised industries and capital goods utilisation to reach new levels of efficiency through  global interlinking.

Expect then to see a growth in bottom up use of technology to bring globally sourced designs, practices, and shared experiences to localised cottage industries with, for example, local manufacture of complex parts using 3-D printing. Embedded smart chips in capital goods could enable better utilisation and enable effective sharing at a local level in new forms of service economies. In other areas too, such as telehealth, the Internet of Things could enable the the expertise of the world to be deployed locally.

impact of Global Warming

On the underlying change factors, it's generally accepted by the young, technologically aware generation that climate change is for real and that they are going to have to live differently in the second half of this century. Few - at least among those I meet - have doubts that global warming will exceed the 2 degrees centigrade rise that governments are aiming to contain. They are also conscious of the looming energy crisis - that we have already reached peak cheap oil.

This new generation of digital natives is losing belief in current political systems, economic models and institutions. They see a general failure to prepare for or to provide the conditions to reach the future.

A new transparency through Internet of Things?

I share that positive view held by some thought leaders in this area, particularly well expresssed by Rob van Kranenburg and Christian Nold in their excellent and profoundly thought provoking "Internet of People" report that new forms of interaction are needed between enterprises, governments and individual citizens..

The technocratically aware youth of today, brought up on the ideals and aspirations of the Open Source movements, are beginning to call for transparency, civic engagement and new, accountable digital institutions. And the Internet of Things has a major role to play.

Personal Data: an intensifying issue

Real-time data driven applications are transforming society and economics so there is a strong and growing conviction among the young (especially in continental Europe) that it is vital that people trust the systems they use and are in control of the personal data they produce, use and share.

But alongside that, the traditional industry and commerce supply side seems to be looking (where they do look at it) at the Internet of Things as a continuation of regarding consumers as objects of control - taking personal data for a pittance and enjoying good margins from its use and re-use. But that model may be unsustainable in an Internet of Things world.

People may no longer accept being objects for corporate capture for added value, or as objects of control. Forward looking groups (especially in continental Europe where the full impact of totalitarianism on liberty is still front of mind) are increasingly persistently demanding to know what data is being captured about them. That will accelerate with the huge amounts of sophisticated interlinked data that full blown Internet of Things will generate.

Rise of the 21st Century technocrat

This generation is aware that we don't necessarily need big companies to run things like ecological or social protection. Expect to see resilient local grassroots communities with tomorrow's breed of more ecologically and politically active technologists taking a lead in these areas from the bottom up, recognising that this will happen too slowly or ineffectively from top down.

Therefore the technologically informed globally networked citizen has a key role to play in the protection and integrity of the planet with the aid of Internet of Things capabilities.

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