Each and every day, technology seems to expand further and further into every aspect of our lives. Increasingly, things that have never before been computerized are becoming not only technologically advanced, but also connected to the internet. Everything from your washing machine to your wristwatch is slowly being turned into a computer as advanced as a laptop, with similar capabilities as well. Slowly but surely, internet enabled technology is beginning to encroach on every aspect of our lives, connecting us to our environment in an unprecedented way. The term commonly used to describe the phenomenon in which seemingly every technological device being used has wireless capabilities is the internet of things.
The concept of creating something like the internet of things can be traced back to the early nineteen eighties, when the first internet connected appliance was put into use at Carnegie Mellon University. The device in question was a vending machine that was able to give reports on the contents of its inventory and the temperature of each individual drink within it. After this, it took almost a decade for papers to be published postulating an evolution of technology that would allow for all technological devices to have similar capabilities, creating a network of interlinked smart devices that could allow us to automate more and more aspects of day to day life. The term ‘internet of things’ was first coined to describe this phenomenon by Kevin Ashton in 1999, who held the belief that eventually this kind of technology would allow computers to ‘manage all individual things.
This internet of things is merely a prelude, however, to a world where every aspect of day to day life is monitored through wireless technology. Everything from waste disposal to traffic control systems will soon be a part of this internet of things, leading humanity into a world where science fiction has become scientific fact. It has already begun in some urban areas, which are being called smart cities. The internet of things offers numerous benefits to both individuals and society as a whole: making access to information more ubiquitous, making government activity more transparent, and empowering citizens to take action and communicate with each other. However, there are a number of problems that come along with the internet of things as well. First and foremost are the concerns that the internet of things will heavily limit, if not eliminate entirely, the ability for any individual to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. People in urban areas are already almost constantly being filmed and monitored in public places, and there are many who believe that the internet of things will contribute to further intrusions on people’s privacy rights. The biggest issue besides privacy is security. Because all of these devices are connected to the internet, they can be hacked and manipulated by third parties in damaging ways.