In the first two decades (50’s to 60’s) we were busy connecting components of a computer; there was clearly no network!
In the next two decades (70’s to 80’s) we were busy connecting computers in the form of a Network (LAN & WAN), what I call Network 1.0
In the next two decades (90’s and the past decade) we were busy connecting computers and people through the connected computers (Internet, WWW and e-mail, in the beginning and Facebook & Twitter in the recent years), what I call Network 2.0
In the current decade and the next decade we will be busy connecting things with people through the network of computers, what I call Network 3.0
Let me elaborate
There is a lot of talk today about the Internet of Things, that talks of networking many sensors, devices (Glucose meters), vehicles (cars), equipment (elevator, washing machine) in the form of Sensor networks
To me networking the things alone is not interesting until the human beings are part of the network. Let me use some examples to illustrate
1 In the past few years Indian users are pleasantly surprised to get an SMS alert when a cheque that they sent for payment got encashed; no need for them to login to their account and check the transaction (which is better than going to Bank branch). Suddenly, they found that the Net is monitoring their activities without they having to monitor. Bank computerisation is not new, particularly in the International scene, but such SMS alerts are new! Similar is the case when a flight is delayed or your Wait-listed ticket on Indian Railways has moved to “Confirmed” status, if you book the tickets through an intermediary like MakeMytrip. Here the thing that talks to the users is a “cheque” or a “ticket” transaction.
2 With barcoded tags tracking luggage pieces in Airports, it is perfectly possible for users to get notified thru SMS when Inter-line (between two flights or two Airlines) transfer takes place, particularly in an inter-continental flight; the infrastructure is there, but the systems are not integrated enough to make it possible. Such networking of things “relieves” the users of constantly monitoring (some time leading to worrying) about things. Here the things are static objects like “luggage bags”
3 A still more interesting situation that makes immense sense is for the “network of things” to include devices, equipment, complex machinery that are dynamic in nature. Take for example, the case of HP printer; for many years one has to know about “out of paper” or “paper jam” only the hard way; later printers got equipped with display one could get a “message display”; later, the printer status could be shown on PC screen. A more tricky situation is the “ink cartridge status”; suddenly on a day that one wants an urgent print out, the ink would have gone dry, causing sufficient inconvenience. Later, software to monitor the “Ink cartridge status” let users check once in a while (say every Sunday) the status; but these days the printers have become much smarter; they constantly monitor the ink status and “flash a message” and “alert” the user when the “ink level” is “20% or 10%”! In fact a similar service is available on “battery level” of wireless keyboard and mouse on Apple iMac. Extending the idea, one can have systems that monitor your car, elevator, plane, pacemaker etc. Using the notion of “geo-fencing” that lets one check the proximity of an object with a specific location, thanks to GPS equipped smartphone, one can track the location of a patient, visitor, object or a device. The applications are endless
What would mean for a country like India?
We misuse human beings to do very routine things like traffic control, surveillance, cleaning sewer pipes, meter reading etc. All these can be done much better and the human beings can be relieved to attend to work that can be more meaningful to them and to improve the quality of life for others. For example, automatic switching on and off electric poles would relieve the chore for several hundreds of corporation employees who can be deployed to take care of citizens needing care (children, elderly or physically challenged). That is where I see the potential of Network 3.o to transform India