Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thought concerning a rapidly emerging internet of things 11: networks of things, networks of people, and blurring boundaries

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 19, 2013

This is my eleventh posting to a series on a rapidly emerging new level of online involvement and connectedness: the internet of things (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 211 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.) And I write this at least in part as an attempt to capture a current but brief turning point in history, with thoughts on that event as it takes place. And I begin that narrative by citing an experience that most people, and certainly in the West but increasingly globally, would find all too familiar: calling a business to find yourself caught up in an automated telephone response system.

Businesses love their automated customer service and support systems. They cut down on headcount requirements and payroll and related operating costs so they save money up-front. And while many customers dislike those obviously-robot voices and their rote answers and their limited, static menu options, most people do stay on the line and use them. But no one would even confuse “conversations” with these systems as conversations with real people or with intelligent systems of any sort. No one would ever wonder how these automated phone systems would do in a Turing test, as the answer to that is usually very obvious.

Quite simply, automated systems do not have to in any way simulate intelligence to work. They just need to be very functionally limited and constrained, where they only do and support doing one very limited thing. The wider their range of required functionality – the wider the range of options that they need to support and the more open and flexible the range of user responses that they will need to correctly respond to and handle, the closer they need to come to achieving true Turing test capability too. And this brings me to flexible and even smart networks and the gradual but accelerating move towards smart online systems.

I have included this series in my directory: Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 for the obvious reason that it directly addresses issues of new and emerging technologies that enable fuller and more ubiquitous connectivity and interaction. I have also included this in my directory: Social Networking and Business because automated, network and internet of things nodes and systems are becoming so flexibly capable that we are rapidly approaching a point where Turing test capable will be a norm – and anything significantly less, more a sign of systems failure and break-down than anything else.

• The internet of things might on one level be about connecting artifacts into the overall internet, but this can and will include smart artifacts and local internet of things networks, connected into the larger internet that collectively and as an emergent property show true Turing test capability.
• We will not always know when we communicating with another person and when we are in fact communicating with an artifact or system of them – and more and more often we will not care as both provide valid answers to questions, resolution of problems and the capturing of opportunity.
• Both will validly communicate and share and on a social level that is indistinguishable from that of communicating with another person, and whether we are or not.

I write this in mid-2013 and at a time when the automated customer relationship management systems that we deploy still by and large fall well short of that performance mark. But future readers of this blog and this posting will not have to be all that far future to the date of this writing for that to change, and completely. People enter into and comprise the social network side of the overall internet as a global system, and the internet of things will increasingly enter into that too – and certainly for complex active network nodes and systems (see Part 1 for a working definition of active networks, and Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 for a more detailed discussion of them.)

I am going to finish this series with this posting and at this point in it, at least for now. But I am sure to return to the issues that I have been raising and at least briefly discussing here, in future postings and series too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its continuation page, and at Social Networking and Business.


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