The growing tide of news and noise around the Internet of Things (IoT) suggests that we will be surrounded by machines endlessly chattering away to each other. Probably, exchanging vital information like how much milk you have used in the last week, and alerting your smartphone to the fact that your only remaining carton is on the verge of going sour.
Of course, it means much more than that, and will have some profound impacts and drive many changes, some as yet unknowable. Such are the lessons we have learned from previous experience with the creation of new networks, and intersecting points of intelligence – human or otherwise.
But, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is not, in itself, new. Point-to-point connections of equipment, with unattended fault reporting and remote diagnostics, have been a feature of high-value equipment for a long time. For example, IBM was including this kind of technology into its AS/400 systems as long ago as the late 1980s.
One of the limiting factors to widespread adoption, and a challenge facing the IoT as it is spread and seeks to become ubiquitous, is how to ensure that each node in the network is able to discover and communicate successfully with others to share data. This need for a common protocol, akin to HTTP underpinning the success of the world-wide web, has had a higher profile in the news over the last month with announcements relating to the UK’s Technology Strategy Board funded Hypercat project.