Op-Ed: Is The Hyper Connected Life For You?
In a world where technology is now playing a deeper role in our lives more than ever, many people are questioning our current relationship with it and what that will look like in the coming decades.
Our trust in tech companies has hit an all-time low, especially with scandals plaguing tech companies like Facebook and Equifax.
However, the consensus by most thought leaders is that the connective revolution is not going to slow down. The marching drum beat of technology is getting to get louder and will not abate. In fact, there is a clear and apparent paradox taking place. Whilst we distrust technology we’re using it more than ever in our daily lives. The latest figures show that with 49% of the world’s population is online, and an estimated 8.4 billion connected things are already in use worldwide, with that figure set to grow to 21 billion by 2020 and 125 billion by 2050.
Underneath all that paranoia: IoT is changing our world. IoT means the interconnection of computing devices embedded in our everyday objects. That means everything from your fridge to your smartwatch talking to each other.
“Underneath all that paranoia: IoT is changing our world.”
So with this onslaught of interconnectivity how good can it really be to keep every aspect of your life online? Well most of us are doing it already. As the blockchain pioneer Don Tapscott told us, our data now knows more about us than we know about ourselves. In fact, 7 in 10 smartphone apps share your data with third-party services already. Your digital trail is deeply embedded throughout your daily life.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be alert and concerned. Regulatory policy updates such as the GDPR help in protecting us but the reality is that the innovation race has advanced in the background and will do so without our permission.
Imagine a future where by nano-robots are inserted into our brain for extra connectivity or a city with roadside sensors adjust their settings to eliminate traffic jams or a bed which senses when we are awake and connects to our shower, which then automatically switches on to heat the water up ready for us in the morning.
In our office alone, we have weight scales that give you weather forecasts, robotic vacuums that clean via an app, Wi-Fi connected audio speakers from Sonos and Google Home Assistants that listen attentively to your every question. Most provocatively, we have Fitbit watches that monitor everything from your sleep patterns to your heart rate.
Is this all a good thing? The short answer is yes. This all allows you to monitor your activities and lifestyle and use that information to make any necessary changes that you were unaware of. The maxim that knowledge is power is very true here. Look at what happened to James Green, a podcast producer and reporter from Brooklyn, New York. Last year a smartwatch saved him from a pulmonary embolism.
Although not everyone will have a significant health disruption, this kind of technology can help make our lives more efficient, convenient and accommodating.
Am I concerned by a potentially rogue vacuum or a Fitbit that tracks my sleep and heart rate? Yes, but I know that my submission allows me to lead a fuller life. Am I concerned that the increasing level of connectivity we experience will be exploited even more so, similar to what happened in the 2015 Ukraine power grid cyberattack? Definitely.
If we can rectify these security & privacy flaws that we’re all so worried about, I believe there can be more positive disruption than negative. We could live in a world where this technology will lessen the strain on public health services, lighten the load on transport systems and even make the process of making purchases more efficient.
Companies like Nest, Neato, Fitbit and others know they are changing our lives but they also know they have a moral obligation to help and to secure our data, and we hope they are in the process of doing this. For now, the public has a right to remain very wary around adding another device to their lives.
But IoT is about creating a more seamless, healthy and dynamic world. To create a place where we can get cleaner air, cut food waste, and transform our health in the process. This will all invariably lead to smarter cities, allowing us the insight to create a more harmonious and more enlightened urban space. And this we welcome more than anything.
Written by Ari Stein, founding editor of 52 Insights