RFID heralds the 'internet of things'

Today's tagging tech "just the tip of the iceberg"
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Today's tagging tech "just the tip of the iceberg"

We will soon be in the middle of a blizzard of tiny computers embedded into everyday items and constantly talking to each other.

Welcome to the so-called 'internet of things' which will replace today's internet of people and data. Everyday items from TVs to toothbrushes, sports equipment and even buildings will have in-built computing power and wireless that will allow them to communicate and share information.

Current rollouts of RFID tagging will be dwarfed by the future development of sensor networks, according to Robin Mannings, BT futurologist and research foresight manager.

He told silicon.com: "RFID is just the tip of the iceberg and the iceberg is ubiquitous computing - more or less everything being a computer."

According to a report published by the International Telecommunications Union last year, eventually, even particles as small as dust might be tagged and networked. "Such developments will turn the merely static objects of today into newly dynamic things," the report predicted.

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The devices could range from a steering wheel with embedded sensors that check if the driver is getting too stressed, through to packaging that can tell if the product inside has become too hot or cold. RFID is already appearing everywhere from suits to football tickets.

Mannings said: "The idea of having technology in everyday objects isn't a pipedream - it's the next evolution of the internet."

The first stage of this "ubiquitous computing" is the use of RFID, and according to Mannings it's pretty hard to think of anything that you can't add to the network. He predicts we will soon see an increased number of these things being deployed outside our bodies - and inside.

As a result we will find ourselves living in a "digital bubble" where as people move around, the technology and the services they use will follow them because it knows where they are - for example, every coffee machine might be able to know how you like your coffee without being told.

But there is still a way to go before even RFID tagging hits the mainstream, said Mannings.

He said: "Things like RFID and tagging are today to do with business but that's not going to excite kids at school. When we start to see ubiquitous computing arranging our social lives then you can see some really cool stuff and it will change the way people interact."

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