Bridging Meaningful Connections within the Internet of Things

When we are constantly broadcasting information about ourselves to the world around us, can it expand the ways our opportunities for interactions?

In The Real World Web, iQ by Intel and PSFK Labs explore the role internet-enabled technologies will play in connected ecosystems of the future. This series, based on a recent report, looks at the rise of the internet of things and its impact on consumer lifestyles.  

Any kid coming out of grade school is familiar with the five senses. Touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell are our primary tools for gathering information about and making sense of the world around us. But more than ever, perceiving our immediate surroundings and beyond is done with technological assistance.

In just a few decades, the Internet has allowed a global community to grow, share and react, comment and collaborate. In the years ahead, more Internet-connected things, many of them other things located continents away, will be joining people as they carry on their own conversations.

As of this year, Cisco Systems estimates that 100 ‘things’ are being connected to the Internet each second. By 2020 it’ll be more like 250. That’s 21.6 million every day.

The data generated and shared by these things may be useful to you – after all their world is your world. This growing network of interconnected devices will be the foundation of a new dynamic in collaborative insight. These objects will give you access to a new type of collective sensory perception, like a “Shared Awareness” that we could further drill down into at the individual level.

In this brave new device ecosystem that better connects us to our physical environment and each other, wearable and mobile devices are automatically capturing and broadcasting contextually relevant information at key moments to enable a seamless flow of communication between people. These systems are continually monitoring individual data like location and activity level to deliver a pre-programmed set of notifications to a trusted peer group, activating a network around timely support and care.

In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, Joe Touch, director at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute, described future scenarios that could become commonplace.

“The Internet will shift from the place we find cat videos to a background capability that will be a seamless part of how we live our everyday lives,” he said in the report. “We won’t think about ‘going online’ or ‘looking on the Internet’ for something – we’ll just be online, and just look.”

Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of mobile apps like Highlight that sync with your various social media profiles and the GPS hardware in your phone to notify you when somebody you might get along with is nearby.

Services like these can be helpful to professionals looking to network, recruiters searching for potential employees (and vice versa), or for anybody who wants to connect with new people. They can help someone make friends in a new town, or get introduced to students at a new school.

The evolution of a tool like Highlight is seen in a device like Wizz.

Created by Lunar design, Wizz is a rock-shaped pendant that will vibrate based on cues from social media, as well as content on apps we use like our queues on Netflix or iTunes playlists. The gentle haptic feedback is meant to mimic the “butterflies-in-your-stomach” feeling that happens when a crush catches your eye. Think of it as a way to break the ice without breaking out the cheesy pick-up lines.

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Another example of the marriage between connected sensors and haptic devices is the Alert Shirt, designed by wearable technology company We:eX (Wearable Experiments).

This sports jersey lets fans experience first-hand what their favorite athletes are feeling in real-time. The jolt of nerves as they steal home, that impact as they take that game winning kick, or the crush of a hockey stick as they get slammed against the boards. It might be best to stick with low-impact sports on that one.

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When people are more connected in this way on a global scale, imagine what that will mean for us closer to home.

Sensors that are embedded into our clothing or accessories, as well as our surroundings, will help us to ensure the safety of loved ones who might require additional care and attention. The Mimo Baby Monitor is a onesie that sends parents a constant stream of data about their infant’s well-being.

For older children, the hereO is a bracelet that alerts guardians when children enter or exit predefined areas like home or school.

At the other end of the age spectrum, it’s a hard truth that as people grow older they may require more care than their families are able to provide. It’s something Michael Wolf, author of the book “Here’s Why Elder Care May Be The Next Billion Dollar Technology Opportunity”, stated in a recent interview with Forbes.

“New technologies can bring down costs: Britain has been able to track a reduction in emergency room visits by 20% through the use of a telehealth monitor,” he said. “The FCC has estimated use of body sensors reduces costs of hospital borne infection by $12,000 per patient. But perhaps the biggest cost for families is live-in care. The cost of traditional live-in care ranges anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 a month, a high toll which can be back breaking for many families. If new technologies can help reduce or hold off these costs for a few years, there is no doubt that the elderly and their families will embrace them.”

We’ve always relied on others for support. Our families, tribes, villages, and nations were built from that shared sense of purpose and responsibility to one another. Still, one fundamental element of social living brings it all together: communication.

This new Shared Awareness aims to enhance and expand how we communicate, and offer new opportunities for us to create meaningful interactions with each other.

 

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