Animal and product tagging is becoming the norm – this could lead to a tipping point where tagging everything with a microchip will become necessary.
Surveillance becomes truly ubiquitous (‘uberveillance’ ) and tagging humans is seen as the obvious next step in the perpetual imperative towards improving health and security.
Internet of Things
A decade ago, Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, asserted his belief that databases of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) would become more centralised, based on Oracle’s business model, which has flourished since 9/11. Eventually, said Ellison, we would have a global database, and it would “track everything”. A Paper prepared for the International Telecommunication Union’s Workshop on Ubiquitous Network Societies in 2005 acknowledged that we were facing a future where “tiny devices the size of a grain of sand might give the wind a pair of eyes, or fingerprint-activated doorknobs may recognize owners by a simple touch”.
Now global surveillance of citizens is announced with pride and accepted without question. This is the age of the ‘Internet of things’ - everything is to be woven into the Web. Companies like IBM are busily creating ‘smartworld’ where the Internet becomes the system of systems, linking all devices, people, and even nature.
Everything we buy from the shops, even our food, will one day incorporate smart tags. This practice is on the increase, facilitating what is known in the industry as ‘asset tracking’, and is being taken up more and more to enable tracking and tracing of documents, equipment, pharmaceuticals, warehouse stock, etc.
A company called Accenture, involved in establishing the identity ecosystem, released a promo more than a decade ago which foretold a world full of wireless sensors, generating data-sets which would be highly profitable:
As this trend toward embedded and wearable devices continues, computing will become infused into the environment. We will no longer have to look through a small screen to interact with technology. The services we use will rely on the infrastructure in our environment to sense our context. They will know where we are, and what we're seeing and hearing; they will be all around us, working unobtrusively to sense needs and changes, and triggering actions in response. For businesses, this will bring new meaning to serving the customer on an 'anytime, anywhere' basis, and open up a range of possibilities for new products and services.
Accenture have also developed a large-scale matching system for biometrics data.
Many products will incorporate sensors which use radio waves (or RF) to communicate with other devices. The global market for RFID technology is currently expected to reach US $18.7 billion by 2017, according to a comprehensive report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., released earlier this year (March, 2012). The booming sales of RFID for commerce and industry are expected to accelerate rapidly over the coming years, due mainly to the increased use of smart tags. Unfortunately, these smart labels are expected to replace bar codes in the future, and be able to interact with ‘smart shelves’, and even with consumers, using NFC to interact with personal devices (a smart phone can act as a ‘reader’).
Electric imp cards are a recent invention; they allow almost any device to be connected to the Internet, and the inventors are hoping manufacturers will add a slot for the device in the products they design, so that just about anything can become a part of the Internet of Things.
The Internet is undergoing a profound change, with the introduction of IPv6. When the Internet was first implemented, decisions had to be made about how many Internet addresses would be needed. IPv4 is the protocol being used at the moment, but with the explosion in connectivity, we’re running out. IPv6 aims to fix that by increasing the number of web addresses to 340 trillion trillion trillion.
We currently have in the region of 5.5 billion mobile devices in use around the world, but only about 4 billion Internet addresses available under IPv4 for each device. As RF tagging and mobile computing increase, there is said to be a need for the new protocol, IPv6, which will, staggeringly, create “an entire IPv4 Internet for every star in the universe”!!!
The reason we have managed so far is because Internet service providers have used NATs (network address translators) which can “distribute ‘private’ addresses to devices on a local network. It’s analogous to an apartment building — each unit has the same street address, but their numbers are different.”
These NATs are provided by network operators like AT&T and Comcast, but will no longer be needed under the new protocol, and are expected to disappear.
The Internet of Things will take flight. Advertisers are drooling at the prospect, because when attempting to trace someone’s IP address under IPv4, they would be led to the NAT (“like only getting the postcode and not the house or even flat number”) but with IPv6, it will be much easier for digital marketers to decipher a specific IP address, removing the last screen between them and us. Bob Hinden, chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and one of the architects of IPv6, thinks that Google may have supported the transition because of this.
Although there may be costs associated with switching to IPv6, the transition is happening quickly. Pcmag.com reports that requests processed from IPv6 addresses jumped from 3 million in 2011 to over 3 billion in 2012. Verizon has played a big part in helping to facilitate this.
EPCglobal is an organization to be aware of, since their aim is to achieve adoption of worldwide standards for Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology, eg the use of RFID, and the sharing of data on the internet via the EPC Global Network.
According to Wikipedia:
EPCglobal's board of governors includes representatives from EPCglobal, GS1, Auto-ID Labs, Cisco Systems, DHL/Exel Supply Chain, Haier Group Company, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, LG Electronics, Lockheed Martin Corporation, METRO AG, Novartis Pharma AG, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Procter & Gamble, Sony Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
As more and more and devices are connected to the Web, the need for power increases. Scientists are looking to solve this by harvesting energy from natural processes; they are developing methods of exploiting the energy created,
Visitors to the Olympic games in London this year were able to power lighting by walking on an energy-harvesting walkway leading to the stadium. Perhaps in the future we’ll power our homes by jogging!
Flexible, wearable electronic interfaces using wireless communication are creating a surge in military and commercial applications. The plan is to use energy harvesting to power the technology: industry professionals anticipate "bionic man containing maintenance-free, self-powered devices for his lifetime [and] is an objective for the next few years.“
There are even solar powered drones which can fly silently, loaded with sensors for surveillance missions.
A company called MC10 which specialises in flexible electronics are said to be developing,
…a variety of products including interventional circuits, that can diagnose and influence tissue function, and 'seamless sensing' devices to improve our health and wellbeing.
MC10 has recently won a contract with the US military to develop solar cells which can be incorporated into the fabric cover of combat helmets and rucksacks.
Another interesting invention, which could one day be a key component of implants, is the ‘blood fuel cell’. First proposed in 2003, it involves placing micro-electrodes inside a living organism, and harnessing the electricity created as glucose is converted to oxygen. In 2008, a new cell phone device, powered by the action of the blood, was proposed.
This concept steps way beyond the current ‘health applications’ being promoted; after connecting the electrodes to an artery, electronic ink would be used to create a digital tattoo, which functions as a Bluetooth interface. A cell phone you can’t lose, the device would even be able to display graphics just like a smart phone: the inventor, Mielke, explained that when the phone ‘rings’, "the tattoo comes to life as a digital video of the caller".
Researchers are currently generating electricity from snails, beetles and cockroaches. The work will be extended to Shitake mushrooms and tree sap. It’s being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, who hope to develop military uses, such as powering wireless sensors. Other researchers are developing bio-fuel cells to power human implants such as cardiac pacemakers.
All of the research related to energy harvesting takes on a whole new light when it comes to a project currently underway in Europe: the “Guardian Angels for a Smarter Life” (GA) FET Flagship project is developing mini-sensors which will harvest energy from the environment, and probably our own bodies, so they can be continually powered. The Guardian Angels (GAs) are being developed to act as ‘personal nano-electronic assistants’ which people are expected to want to use “from infancy to old age”.
Forming a vast wireless sensor network, they are designed to be our “companions” and will perform every sensing and tracking function not already covered by the cameras, device detectors, GPS, biometric scanners, etc – they will be able to monitor a person’s physiological state and even, apparently, their emotions, and assess these in the context of the background data received from environment-sensors (e.g. temperature).
This data can be fed back for analysis to whoever needs it, as part of the grand Internet of Things. All promos for GAs focus on extolling the benefits to people in ill health. However, they are also being sold to the public as a benefit to everyone; something we can use throughout life, enabling us to be smart, in a smart world.
They will enhance humanity because they feature “sensing, computation, and communication beyond human capabilities”.
The physiological sensors will use bio-compatible nano-materials, and use ultra low power nano-electronics. They will provide feedback on physical actions, and internal physiological processes, and compute what these ‚mean’ to help diagnose and prevent ill health. All of the sensors work together, so this information will be ‚understood’ in the context of the feedback from both the environment sensors, and the emotion sensors. The latter will use silicon and carbon electronics, and brain interface technology. They are designed to assess your emotional state, such as warning you that you’re stressed, and need to take a break!!! This information is combined with all of the other data being received by the GAs, then an algorithm is used to help you make decisions! The Guardian Angels will create a data-producing goldmine, ripe for profiling. They are even expected to “enable unforeseen generations of autonomous robots”.
The researchers are determined that these sensors will use “zero power”, as they are highly aware of both the ‘era of sustainability’, and the limited power afforded by batteries.
A recently published PowerPoint presentation on the ‘zero power’ capability of the Guardian Angels claims,
The Guardian Angels systems will gather energy wherever it can be found, in the environment surrounding us. The goal of this “zero power” approach is to provide complete autonomy by integrating the most recent technology; light, vibrations and thermal gradients can be used to power electronic circuits.
Finally, Guardian Angels will incorporate the latest energy storage technologies (such as green batteries), for situations in which energy is just not available.
(It may even be possible to realize the transhumanist dream of linking the mind to the Internet, uploading information to become super-intelligent, with the development by MIT of a brain chip which acts as an artificial brain synapse )
The GA project envisions the use of 'electronic skin’ as the means by which the sensors can be worn discretely. The 'skin’ is shown as a patch worn on the lower arm of a child asleep on page 10 of the Final Report; but on page 14, it is suggested that it may sometimes be more appropriate to use "implantable devices”.
Clearly the researchers are envisaging the current range of devices which are implanted for health reasons; however, it is likely that, should the GAs prove successful, the obvious downsides to relying on adhesive would pave the way towards implantation as a 'safer’ and easier alternative. The shift away from electronic skin to implanted devices could also be facilitated by the use of ‘blood fuel cells’.
Although the research project is European, it is to become a global initiative: according to the Final Report on Guardian Angels (April, 2012), partnerships with academics and corporations in the US have already been agreed (with MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, IBM and Intel), and further partnerships are planned with leading partners from South Asia and Japan (eg Tokyo Tech, Nissan, and Toshiba) which“will ensure an even more global impact of the GA Flagship”.
CONCLUSION TO FOLLOW SHORTLY e.g. the effects of 'Anonymous'