The Smart, Intelligent, Automated, Connected, Wired Planet of Things

featured-brave-new-worldIf there is one thing that has captured my imagination and leaves my head in the clouds daydreaming, it’s the concept of nonliving objects that can seemingly think, react and even anticipate needs. Often termed the Internet of Things, those of us in the AV industry are more familiar with the related concept of smart buildings and automation. You’ll also hear the terms intelligent systems and even IBM’s famous smarter planet commercials. Last month, I recorded a podcast with the very intelligent (how appropriate for someone who designs intelligent systems) CEO and president of PepperDash Technologies, Howard Nunes. I found this conversation and topic so exciting and intriguing I thought it warranted further exploration this month.

The Internet of Things is based on two key points. First, so many physical objects (from consumer electronics to pacemakers to traffic lights to lighting fixtures) are now embedded with sensors and technology that gives them the ability to autonomously react to external stimuli. Second, communications networks have permeated almost every inch of our lives. We are a networked society that has the ability to transmit information to each other instantly (which we do frequently). So, knowing that these objects have the ability to react, they now are developing the ability to think and communicate. One of my favorite examples of using this type of technology in a fun way is the good old programming concept of “If This, Then That” (IFTTT). On the site IFTTT.com, you can see homemade recipes for anything from your lights at home flashing when you check in to a place on Foursquare, to having the cat litter box text me when the cat uses it!

As for smart buildings, the basic idea is that of a building that functions well and uses less resources by utilizing the same key characteristics of the Internet of Things – the ability to react autonomously and communicate. What I found most interesting is that Howard expressed the idea that smart building technology is really an evolution of sustainability. And the ProAV industry has a well-defined place in this evolution. He emphasized that we must think beyond more than just a phone and video system being on the same network. A smart building truly serves the needs of the human: People are the ones who are communicating, not the system. The evolution he describes is this:

  1. We enabled the systems to communicate with one another – required converged networks. These systems/devices began to proactively share information with one another to achieve more efficient results (key to green buildings).
  2. The systems then provided better reporting – so we could make better decisions for sustainability.
  3. Finally, we have entered the age of “predictive automation.” This is where it gets exciting and I see the Internet of Things come into play. The system begins to develop its own automated activity based on events happening in the system. Seeing patterns in human behavior, the system of devices begins to proactively make decisions.

And that is the point where we know our world has truly become intelligent — the stuff daydreams are made of…