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یکشنبه 20 اسفند‌ماه سال 1385

Wireless: Creating Internet of 'Things': A scary, but exciting

Miniaturization, the ubiquity of consumer electronics and the global Internet are speeding up the creation of a worldwide "network of things," where cars, phones, turnstiles - even books and clothing - know about us: who we are, where we are, what we are doing.
 
This vision of a "Star Trek" world, where things like food replicators do our bidding, has been forecast for decades. Today, it looms closer, neither "science fiction nor industry hype," the International Telecommunication Union concluded in a study issued here last week, "but based on solid technological advances."
 
Never mind the radio tags that already keep track of the location of a pallet of some company's inventory. The favorite hypothetical device on such an "Internet of things," from Nicholas Negroponte, head of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the doorknob.
 
"It's a very smart doorknob," he told an ITU conference. "When you approach the door and you're carrying groceries, it opens and lets you in. This doorknob is so smart, it can let the dog out but it won't let six dogs come back in.
 
"It will take FedEx packages and automatically sign for you when you're not there. If you're standing by the door, and a phone call comes in, the doorknob can tell you that 'you've got a phone call from your son that I think you should take."'
 
The latest time frame for programming things to communicate with people and other things on the Internet is five or 10 years, predicted Olivier Baujard, chief technology officer of Alcatel, the French telecommunications equipment maker.
 
Already in Japan and elsewhere, "things" like mobile phones are paying for "things" like subway fare or cosmetics from a Web site. Radio tags are being used to monitor access to VIP clubs, in passes for ski lifts and for tracking medical patents.
 
Referring to radio frequency identification, Negroponte said: "When we talk about an Internet of things, it's not just putting RFID tags on some dumb thing so we smart people know where that dumb thing is. It's about embedding intelligence so things become smarter and do more than they were proposed to do."
 
In order to connect things, they need to be recognized on the network, through a technology like RFID. Then, sensor technology needs to be able to detect changes in their physical status, knowing features like temperature and recognizing location and direction.
 
Finally, the combination of the two technologies and how human beings manipulate them through the Internet gives them intelligence. "Eventually, even particles as small as dust might be tagged and networked," the ITU said.
 
This assumes each technology is working under a common standard, something that is easier said than done. That and the concerns of privacy and data protection may be the biggest issues holding back an Internet of things, the ITU said. For ordinary consumers, the prospect of a world where not just everyone but everything is linked is just as scary as it is exciting.
 
When objects are "intelligent," there are few ways to get them to stop talking about us. Also, some experts ask rhetorically, what happens to personal responsibility? If you are in a car connected to a network that has an accident, who is at fault, you or the system? Who is in charge? Such concerns have already stalled some radio-tag trials.
 
"To promote a more widespread adoption of the technologies underlying the Internet of Things, principles of informed consent, data confidentiality and security must be safeguarded," the ITU report warned. "Unless there are concerted efforts involving all government, civil society and private sector players to protect these values, the development of an Internet of Things will be hampered, if not prevented."
 
Cellphone world rankings
 
The ITU also came out with rankings for cellphone subscribers by country last week, updated to the end of 2004.
 
China remains at the top by number of subscriptions, with 335 million, but most other countries in the top 20 economies outrank it in terms of the number per 100 residents.
 
Leading that list are Italy (109), Britain (103), Taiwan (100), Spain (94), Germany (86), South Korea (76) and France (74). The United States has 61 percent penetration, and Japan 72 percent. China is at 26 percent.
 
 
 
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