If you’re still talking about mobile devices revolutionising the online world, you’re behind the times. The ‘Internet of Things’ is the next fundamental shift in the way we interact with machines, and it will have a particularly significant effect on the viability of location data.
In simple terms, the Internet of Things refers to the huge growth in the number of physical objects that are connected to the Internet but aren’t traditional user devices such as laptops, phones or tablets. In particular, it covers embedded sensors such as in smart thermostats or WiFi-controlled lighting.
The scale of the Internet of Things is almost impossible to comprehend, but forecasts by research firms Gartner and ABI forecast it will be made up of 26 billion to 30 billion connected objects by 2020. To put that into context, in 2012 Cisco estimated the total number of internet-connected devices at 8.7 billion (including phones, tablets and computers.)
The result is that the internet is shifting from something that’s mainly used by humans actively interacting on a device to something where the majority of connections are between what we currently think of as ordinary machines and gadgets.
The implications are almost countless, but the internet’s infrastructure will come under far greater pressure; that the number of entry points for security breaches will grow tremendously; and that there’ll be plenty of game changing opportunities for developing new technologies and solutions.
The world of location data will be at the heart of this revolution. While academics debate the validity of the oft-cited statistic of 80% of data having a location element, today it’s clear that many if not most sources of data can be linked to a location in some way.
That’s nothing compared to the situation if and when the Internet of Things takes place: almost by definition, if a physical object has a sensor that can be remotely monitored or controlled, that object’s location is known and relevant.