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The Internet of Things

Gordon Farrer (The Melbourne Age) | July 26, 2010
The Internet of Things is changing how we relate to technology.

Would you feel hurt if your refrigerator stopped returning your emails? Would you be annoyed to have your dinner interrupted by a pot plant demanding a drink? Are you friends with your toilet on Facebook?

Do you like the idea of a virtual avatar that contains your personality and memories the essence of you that could communicate with your descendants?

It's only a matter of time.

Treating machines as though they're human might sound like a stretch but Web 2.0 , the social web the internet in which everyone is a content producer and everyone is connected is creating a new relationship between people and technology.

Welcome to The Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things is a web in which gadgets, machines, everyday products, devices and inanimate objects share information about themselves in new ways, in real time.

Using a range of technologies such as embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chips linked with IP addresses (internet signatures), near-field communications, electronic product codes and GPS systems just about anything can be connected to a network. The connected objects can then be tracked and output information can be recorded, analysed and shared in countless ways via the internet some productive, some frivolous, some a little unnerving.

Some examples:

* A range of toilets developed in Japan can analyse your stool, body fat, blood pressure, heart rate, urine sugar levels, albumin and blood in urine and send the results to your GP to flag potential health issues. Hiroyuki Matsui, chief engineer at high-end Japanese toilet manufacturer Matsushita calls the toilets ''health measuring centres''.

* US Courier company FedEx has plans for a sensor to track in real time a package's position and record details such as whether it has been opened and whether it is too hot or cold

* Fridges are being developed that monitor their contents, including the health values and use-by dates of various foods and whether you need to buy more milk

* The Botanicalls system enables a plant to broadcast its moisture level and text, phone or tweet when it needs to be watered

* A networked bathroom scale developed by BodyTrace, launched last year, wirelessly uploads a user's information to a website, calculates weight and BMI charts, and offers dietary recommendations

* Beef farmers in Japan have IP addresses embedded on RFID chips implanted in the skin of cattle to track them through the production process

* Puppy Tweets, a dog collar designed by toy-maker Mattel, tweets random messages from your pet (example: ''I bark because I miss you. There, I said it. Now hurry home.'')

* London's iconic clock Big Ben marks time by tweeting ''BONG'' for every chime of the hour. The account has about 57,000 followers. (There's parody version, similarly named but ruder, that tweets DONG for every BONG. It has just 100 followers.)

 

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