In an era of increasingly connected people and devices, it is important to understand how networks utilize our data both positively and negatively. By now you have probably heard of the term “Internet of Things” or “IOT”. As more objects in our daily lives become “smart”, such as appliances, vehicles and wearable technology, the useful data which they produce will be used to generate value in our lives, while at the same time be used for commercial gain. IOT technology, like most innovations, has its pros and cons.
Many fear a Big-Brother-like society of corporations exploiting this data for commercial purposes, and that it is an invasion of our privacy. However, the value they derive from this data more often than not finances or facilitates a service they provide for free. For example, Google uses search activity and personal data to target advertisements to the most receptive audiences. They also use the GPS data from our connected mobile devices to provide faster routing through traffic in Google Maps navigation. As a commuter, I am happy to share this information if it saves me several days worth of sitting in of traffic over the course of a year. However, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, consumers are becoming more aware of some of the less scrupulous entities scraping user data, to build psychological profiles and even going so far as using this information to manipulate political opinion (such as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign).
The data from connected devices can be incredibly beneficial to our lives. A perfect example is harm reduction devices for those that suffer from dementia, such as pill trackers, fall detectors and GPS locators. When we expand these connected networks to include even more data networks, new and exciting services can be provided. A good example of this is a vehicle that can call 911 as soon as an accident is detected. The driver’s personal health information is included with the call so that preexisting conditions can be accommodated. For example, an on-site cardiac specialist can be requested if required. Traffic conditions help determine the fastest route and appropriate hospital dispatch, while triage can occur before arrival at the ER. This level of integration has great rewards, but can be challenging to establish, as different systems, protocols and data-bases must be expertly coordinated.
The Internet of Things has the power to change our world. And while we are starting to see its incredible impact, we are still very much at the beginning of the transformational journey. Expertise in IOT innovation, coordination and management is emerging as an important skill set within creative agencies. It is for this reason that Sterling College’s Creative Technology Program features this type of specialized education in its curriculum.
Will Maher, Academic Director of Creative Technologies