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Changes brought about by the internet will be dwarfed by those prompted by the networking of everyday objects, says a report by a UN body.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), sensors, robotics and nanotechnology will make processing power increasingly available in smaller and smaller packages so that networked computing dissolves into the fabric of things around us.
The result could mean remote controls embedded in clothing, cars that alert their driver when they have developed a fault, managers who check on workers through the RFID devices embedded in their phones, and bags that remind their owners that they have forgotten something.
There are already examples of the technology in action. Tiny sensors are used to check San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge for structural damage and in coffee beans in Brazil for quality control.
Some of the benefits of this ubiquitous networked society include cheaper HIV treatments, more effective pharmaceutical controls and the purification of water using nanofilters.
The low-cost RFID tag business is an up and coming technology. The Holy Grail of this business is to produce an ID tag that costs only 5 cents to manufacture and therefore can be embedded in almost any consumer product. RFID tags are kind of like Web browser cookies for everyday objects. They allow individual products to be tracked during their entire life time from their birth at a factory all the way to their death at the local landfill. RFID readers work up to a distance of 5 feet and don't require any special efforts for tags to be read.
The so-called Internet of Things is predicted to offer new business opportunities for all, from manufacturers to the telecoms industry, and create entirely new markets.
But it cold also have negative impacts, such as increased levels of electro-magnetic radiation generated by a world of communicating objects.
"Society will have to deal with some very substantial issues," said Jonathan Murray, Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft Europe.
Concerns about RFID technology have already led to consumer boycotts. In addition, the lack of technical standards for the component technologies could hinder its evolution.
But while it is hard to say to what extent it will develop, the past gives us a hint of the future, according to Ms Srivastava.
"It's safe to say that technology today is more pervasive than we would ever have imagined possible 10 years ago," she said.
"Similarly, 10 years from now things will continue in this general direction. That's what these new technologies are telling us."
"Once RFID readers are deployed in most of the stores here in the US,
there will some really amazing tracking systems that can be put into
place. For example, just by embedding RFID tags into clothing, stores
can recognize returning customers a la "Minority Report". Also stores can send out "all-points bulletins" for clothing items that have gone
missing. Shoplifters won't be able to hide."
Kazakhstan and Lithuanian customs officials are using electronic seals to ensure truck cargo doors are not opened en route."
"By improving trade route security, the government also hopes to attract more commercial cargo traffic."
Really? I thought it was to protect against the terrorists.
"The tag on the seal transmits an alert in the event that the seal has been tampered with. In addition, it can send other data, such as the identity of the truck and driver, the type of cargo being transported, and, in some cases, the entire manifest."
"...which transmit at two frequencies: 433 MHz for long distance, 125 kHz for short range..."
"If the seal is tampered with at any point along the route, the agency receives an alert from the next interrogator that reads the tag, and can then dispatch a local government officer to stop the truck."
"USDA Pushes Plan to Move NAIS Forward
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's seven-point plan is aimed at getting 70 percent of all cattle in the country enrolled in the National Animal Identification System by 2010."
"The consumer can then use that record to download a variety of coupons and other rewards, based on the amount of recycling they did."
"Eco-friendly Clothing Store Plans to Debut With RFID"