Everyone talks about IoT, but what if we go one step further and imagine IoT without the things, in other words Internet of NO Things? I was introduced to this intriguing concept by the Finnish think tank Demos Helsinki who seem to have their minds firmly set somewhere far off in the future. So what does it mean to have a hyper-connected society, but without all the stuff?
Roope Mokka from Demos Helsinki talked about how we today look at our phones on average every 6th minute – in 15 years we will never look at them again. As sensors become smaller and smaller, the idea is that in the future they will be everywhere. In other words, Internet will be everywhere, on demand, in a “smart environment.” One way to think about it is as a form of “smart dust.” In this environment, making a phone call would be done not by picking up a phone, but by making a hand gesture or saying a certain command.
Ok, so this might seem like a utopian, futuristic idea, but actually it is already happening to some extent. There are TVs and other devices that are connected on stand-by, where you just need to utter a command to make them do what you want. Airbnb and Uber are examples where the digital and physical worlds are merged already. These services center focus on people’s physical homes and cars; where digital bits and physical atoms are closely connected.
Of course, it’s a pretty gigantic bridge between the internet disappearing and transforming into part of our environment. Demos Helsiniki admits that no one knows exactly how this will actually come about. But it is a intriguing idea, and Mokka talks about how the “Internet of No-Things” will entail a super-efficient, post-choice, post-ownership, post-market and post-energy society. The latter means that machines will evolve to harvest their own energy. In the long run, we essentially will have an abundance of energy. Quite different from today, huh?
Internet being everywhere poses some important security and integrity concerns. Imagine having a blank paper which fills up with text as you lift it up. How do we make sure that only the right people have access to certain data, and not any one else? And what will happen to jobs in this kind of super-efficient society. Indeed, there are many questions, but for now let’s just keep the new concept of “Internet of no things” in mind and look for the signs of its digital-physical transformation!