Future tech envisaged by Trek

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The future of “The Internet of Things” looks like Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

Roddenberry’s vision of humankind served by “Unchained Technology” seemed a far-fetched idea only possible in the far future when he put it on screen in 1966. But thanks to “The Internet of Things”, a concept that by 2016 has been around for 34 years, Roddenberry’s better technology-enabled future is almost here.

“The Internet of Things” is a phrase defined by internet connectivity of every day devices, giving that hardware extra functionality thanks to their connection to the internet via cable, wi-fi or a mobile phone network.

In today’s world that means more than the obvious personal computers, tablet computers and smartphones, although they were the start.

The trusty old doorbell is a good example of how internet connectivity can help transform a simple device. It becomes much more usable than the simple function it was originally designed for in the days before the internet changed all of our lives.

In the old days, the doorbell simply rang a chime when the button was pressed to alert you to the fact that someone was at your door. If you were out there was no way to know whether someone had called at your front door unless they left you a message or rang you later. But thanks to Australasian and American firm Ring’s embracing of “The Internet of Things” enabled technology it’s now possible to not miss a single caller from anywhere in the world.

By adding a webcam to the doorbell and connecting it to the internet it’s possible to see who is at your door, and even speak to them, when you are away from home. Since most burglars ring the bell, posing as a door to door odd jobber if you happened to answer, this is a good way of identifying a would-be burglar.

You can tell him or her you are in the shower, or some such excuse, but if they don’t fall for your ruse you can send the police a photograph of the person who called at your home the day it was ransacked and precious items stolen. This would go a long way towards apprehending the culprit and recovering your stolen stuff.

You can even extend the range of the camera to cover other parts of your section with smart motion detection.

Other examples of the “Internet of Things” today include burglar alarms that ring your mobile phone when they’re triggered, smart fridges that text you when you need more milk, activity trackers that record your fitness regime and its effects to the web, and RFID sensors that track the location of shipping containers.

In Waikato “The Internet of Things” connects farmers to their cows in real time via Hamilton-based herd improvement co-operative LIC’s online herd records database MINDA.

In tomorrow’s world that means a proliferation of such devices as envisaged by Roddenberry and his production team. The USS Enterprise’s shipboard computer was connected to practically every tool used by the crew, the most versatile of which was the tricorder. The tricorder could record, store and analyse data.

A working model of what the Star Trek team envisaged 50 year ago is about to become reality thanks to the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition. The winning team will receive US$10 million to develop a real life working model of a medical tricorder. For this imagine a portable, wireless device in the palm of your hand that monitors and diagnoses your health conditions for a remote doctor. Qualcomm hopes it will lead to a radical innovation in healthcare that will give individuals far greater choices in when, where, and how they receive medical care.

Such is the future of “The Internet of Things”.

While the Qualcomm Tricroder XPRIZE is a logical outcome of “The Internet of Things”, the final frontier is literally the limit to what’s next in this space.

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About Author

David Hallett

David Hallett is a director of Hamilton software specialist Company-X, design house E9 and chief nerd at Waikato Need A Nerd.

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