We have become accustomed to seeing computers everywhere: at work, at home, from in our pockets, and from there, basically, everywhere. A computer is no longer a computer as we knew it. Today, a computer can be a tiny ten-euro device with processing and connectivity capabilities such as the Raspberry Pi Zero W in the picture, or it can be a car, which we have long been referring to as a computer on wheels.
The next step goes much further. When a computer can be so many disparate things, the next step is to put a computer everywhere. The arrival of the internet of things implies, more and more, that everything becomes a computer. I enter though the door of my home when the computer on the lock detects my pocket computer, I turn on the lights and I decide the mood or environment that I want with a computer, with which I interact by means of the voice with another computer in my living room. My television, my stereo, my alarm, my irrigation system, my thermostat or my smoke detector … all of them, in one way or another, are connected computers.
All these computers generate data streams constantly. It is estimated that a connected car will send the cloud twenty five gigabytes of information every hour, which will have to be transmitted through ultra-fast 5G networks to be able to be actionable with the necessary speed. And as with the car, we will constantly transmit data to our clothing, our wearables, and even the streets or highways through which we travel. Everything that we interact with is becoming a connected computer and generating a constant flow of data to the cloud: the computer we carry in our pocket will identify us, our payments, our communication and our location. What is the point of an identity card when a smartphone is so much more convincing proof of who we say we are? Permanent data flows every time we take a step or interact with something. Transactions of all kinds including those we never imagined would constitute a transaction, are converted into bits, transmitted to the cloud and stored in blockchains.
We already connect our children’s toys and even our sex toys, which generates the evident need to protect our data to avoid unwanted or unauthorized uses. If everything is a computer, we have to understand the need to treat it as such, with all that entails, including the need to keep it secure and to transmit its data through adequately encrypted networks: the latest denial-of-service attacks used connected devices such as cameras, smoke detectors or thermostats: does it ring a bell?
A computer is no longer a device we manage to perform certain clerical tasks such as reading, writing or playing, and instead has become the soul of everything we interact with: the infinite number of devices that today are options for geeks will soon have a value proposal that will make many of us wonder how we managed when those devices were not intelligent or not connected. The network that allowed us to communicate or access information is today the connective tissue that exchanges information flows between everything we do, and although it obviously needs some improvements, it will continue to be so, regardless of what we think about it.
That is the reality we are headed toward. This is not science fiction: it is an unstoppable evolution. Businesses that do not want to or do not know how to do be part of it, those who do not incorporate this reality into their everyday life, will be less competitive and end up being simply a shelter for the disconnected, the nostalgic or the excluded.
OK, I’m ready. I think I have enough ideas for my next book. I’m going to get down to work.
(En español, aquí)