Moving into the Era of Physical Web: Through Innovations or Inventions

Jan 22, 2015

I was discussing on the other day with Babujee, my father, about smart technologies that are effecting changes in our lives, the way we spend our time and the way we associate ourselves with others. I was trying to expound on the way a bunch of technologies like RFID, optical recognition tools or technological models like Cloud Computing, Big Data, Augmented Reality will transform the way we work, collaborate and communicate. I was trying to emphasize how the dead, lifeless objects will gain consciousness about us and our activities. We would seamlessly interact with these otherwise sterile objects at workplace, in market places and within the comfort of our home. The all-pervasive Internet came into our discussion. We were wondering how cloud computing had helped create avenues through social media and apps that are aware of locations and other things through multitude of sensors, where digital caper syncs with human manner, and how we live in peace with our chiming electronic gazettes. We agreed to leave the validity and appropriateness of the term 'peace' with regard to gazette use for that day; but then it was a delight to imagine different ways human and machine can work in concert.

But then I was on back foot when Babujee posed a question if we are inventing something for the new world or just innovating with the existing technologies, to make our life better, from our own standpoints. There is no easy answer as the inventions are crawling whereas majority innovates to stay ahead in the game, a unique model in this connected world equipped with free market economy and high information availability. But we would not feel sorry for North Koreans; they can remain as a protected tribe away from the tumult of evolutionary changes; for later genetic comparisons and study - great indeed! Sony must not disturb the equilibrium by fictional interviews, pants can wet on both sides too.

Getting back on topic, we know this ecosystem as the Physical Web when we bring day-to-day gazettes and other utility items into the realm of digital information superstructure that has happened through Internet, servers, gateway devices, our age-old and reliable desktops, lighter laptops and smart phones. While the ones I mentioned have great powers, and they have ability to crunch numbers and are connected through Internet, these new entrants into the digital world may not have full-fledged mainstream connectivity or computational processors. They have sensors to snap some experience from their surrounding or person or thing or even process they have proximity with. On the other hand, they have some gateway to push or to make those experience available to the neighbouring full-fledged computing machine connected to Internet. A little bit of computation still happens. These can also receive instructions from the main network devices and can perform mechanical tasks to their own abilities. Thus, we pull everything into our grand global digital realm to make Internet of Things, where we connect to these smart objects securely, as we require, over networks and can know from them or to let them know to perform tasks. Human and machine work in partnership.

But the question remains about keeping these objects alive, through electricity, if they have to remain connected all along. We need to invent devices that can remain powered for years without external power supply, yet should be affordable. We need to invent better digital communication protocol to handle persistent connectedness, offline behaviour and failover rather than just amalgamating all protocols to just make something work and to stick to their common minimum purpose, like a coalition government working with Rights and Lefts. Critics may point out that magic must lie in harmonious working and not in uniformity. Yes, in harmonious working; the point is made.

While invention is badly needed now, innovation should continue to create greater utilities of the existing established technologies or the new ones or the mix of both. The whole world will benefit with new apps, new devices and new usage patterns revealed.

The spectre of our wont must not destabilise the twin saviours, invention and innovation. The same is also true when we, as a global society, familiarise ourselves with the new digital ecosystem, the Physical Web.

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