Internet of Things: where is it heading?

Internet of Things: where is it heading?

Nathan Weaver set up an experiment to figure out how to make it safer for turtles to cross highways. He “put realistic­looking rubber turtles, no bigger than a saucer, in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched as over the next hour, seven drivers intentionally ran over the turtle, and several more appeared to try to hit the defenseless animal, but missed…One in 50 drivers ran over the dummy turtles. In itself that ratio might seem –although still awful (and not taking into account drivers aiming for but missing the turtle) not alarming, “but consider how long it take a turtle to cross the road and it becomes plain to see that road­crossing for turtles on any semi­busy road means guaranteed death.”[1] Each small unkind and selfish act has not an equally small consequence but – due to the fact that the infrastructure (road) forces the tool (car) to follow a particular path – is able to destroy totally that which is its opposite (slow, vulnerable, purposeful).[2]

New technologies get developed in an envelope of regularity that resembles this particular situation as the logic of innovation. The disruptive qualities of the potential to not only build new roads but envisage other kinds and forms of transportation, other notions of dwelling, moving, staying, going, learning, ‘being’, get snowed under the institutional tendency to make the road a little wider, better, ‘smart’.

As a member of the EU Expert Group over the past two years I have witnessed the struggle over concepts ‘Internet of Things’ versus a ‘horizontal approach’, becoming really political and ugly. There are billions to be made for those who are able to front their schemes for naming and addressing ‘objects’ and ‘things’ into successful business models. Lobbyists for old industry models based on patents and making money from selling hardware downplay and try to forestall the disruptive qualities of ever growing connectivity and transparency by offering both the dying democratic structures and the dying real world economy companies some hope that yet again they might sail over these rough seas without going under.

Yet their analysts and intelligence officers cannot believe that anymore. No wonder, they are at the forefront of the data tsunami and realize there is no way to secure at item level as people walk out of the room with data on their t-shirt, nor is there any more agency in securing the levels of political formats that make up national states. I received an invitation to talk about Internet of Things from the GFF ‘and the Italian Intelligence community’, Transformational Technologies #4: Implications for an Expanding Threat Environment September 17-18, 2012 Rome, Italy. In the afternoon five breakout groups (senior intelligence, police and military) came back with five scenarios of major threats: one was military, two were about DIY Bio and two were about the ‘total breakdown of society’, because of the inability of current institutions to deal with the digital. It was quite crazy to see my own scenario of a while ago[3] played back by institutional analysts.

Owning the hybrid objects of IoT makes no sense (liability, accountability). Leasing is the logical business model. As items and platforms can no longer be secured, the logical business model of IoT is the smart city. You buy life. Pick your car, you lease mobility. Your fridge will be always full, you lease storage of food. You can secure a city. So there you have the logical trajectory of IoT: traditional policing and military securing traditional proprietary business models. The former have become militia’s as the states are gone. The latter will pay for the development of bio and nano as sophistication and preservation of their initial investments. This is happening as we speak. Gated communities are the fastest rising form of building in the US and in China. The smart cities models for 50.000 persons are no labs, and not intended to become inclusive. In 2020 there will be 1500 smart cities and Mad Max in between. Is there an alternative? There is. It lies in concrete imaginaries of cities that are build for concrete human, animal and plant needs. We can build them. Can we fund them? Easily, if we all refuse to pay taxes to any form of traditional government, we can kick start thousands of them, starting next week.

[1] Alexander Abad­Santos Dec 27, 2012, 12/29/12 This College Student’s ‘Turtle Project’ Proves Humans Are Jerks ‐ National ‐ The Atlantic Wire,‐students‐turtle project‐proves‐humans‐are‐jerks/60388/ 1/2


[2] So you see why we should take it ‘all’ to a different ‘plane’.