Everyone knows humans have a social network to connect online. But there's also a growing online social network for non-humans or things. We're talking refrigerators, street lights, even garbage cans. We spoke to Daniel Price, the young CEO of the tech company "Breadware" which develops products for the "Internet of Things."
Sharyl: Where did the idea come from and what is it?
Daniel Price: So the Internet of Things is actually a pretty old concept but a rather new term. The first real example of the Internet of Things or IoT product could be thought of as the ATM machine. So this was a machine that you could extract money from and that was connected to the Internet. The first real IoT product that gained some press and traction was the NEST thermostat. So the smart thermostat you put in your home, you could you could turn it on or off from work. It sort of learned your behavior and your preferences and some started doing it automatically. And now IoT is sort of become a little bit of a gold rush where companies are racing each other to get first to market on a new product that can collect more information about the consumer and they can use that in ways to improve the business or improve the value.
Sharyl: Is the purpose of these things that are connected to the Internet to serve the consumer or to gather information about the consumer so that they can provide data that can be sold to other parties?
Price: IoT products really can be deployed in two ways. It can be deployed such that the product has more value to the consumer or can be deployed internally to improve operational efficiency of the business. Imagine for example lights inside of a building that respond to how much lights outside and they can dim or adjust appropriately to save efficiency. That's what would be an internal product. For a consumer product, You know there's value to the consumer but at the same time the business can receive that information and then figure out how to better serve the needs of their customer
Sharyl: Or sell the data even.
Price: Or sell the data and then that touches on many of the privacy concerns that this new type of product is opening up.
Sharyl: So tell can you tell me the story about the toaster?
Price: Yes. So in 2014, there's IoT toaster launched in Europe and this Toaster's name is Brad.
Ad: And this is Brad. Brad is part of a new breed of products.
Price: And he was designed to want to make toast. Internal metrics in the toaster, it wanted to make toast and it was connected to the Internet. And you can see other toasters in its network and see how often they're making toast kind of compare itself to them.
AD: If he's used more than other toasters, he will remark about how satisfied he is.
Price: So if this Brad toaster feels neglected he can wiggle his little toaster handle trying to get someone's attention.
AD: When Brad is left alone for a very long time, he will try to draw attention to himself.
Price: And if you continue to ignore him eventually he'll feel that his home is not a good one for him and he can post a for sale ad for himself on the internet trying to find a new home or someone's going to actually use them. So it makes you think about household appliances in a different way if they have this connectivity this intelligence so to speak.
Sharyl: What world do you see five 10 years for Americans it's different from today because of this development?
Price: So our home is going to be much more connected. Our refrigerator will know what's in it. It'll tell you when eggs are going bad. It'll probably automatically reorder them. So there's a convenience aspect but then there's also the aspect of the environment itself is going to be more intelligent. You go to the mall and you'll be recognized you're driving down the street and you're recognized by the signs or by the road. And this brings up questions of privacy which is the biggest talking point along with security of IoT today.
Sharyl: Do you think do you think a better world comes from the expansion of the Internet of Things?
Price: I believe it does. These devices are being deployed to serve the needs of the elderly. Think of a more advanced you know ‘help I've fallen and I can't get up’ type button. People are able to stay at home and not have to move into assisted living centers longer. IoT is being deployed on the roadways to make for safer driving conditions. And there's also the convenience and the business efficiencies. So overall I believe that there's a lot of good. We just have to get ahead of the possibilities of rights infringement and security challenges because these devices will also be managing systems of machinery or equipment that lives depend on. So we have to trust them to be making the right decisions.
As for privacy concerns, Price says the European Union is ahead of the US in that people there are deemed to own the rights to their own data. The EU is launching a new initiative that puts a dollar figure on violating data security. Brad the toaster was a whimsical prototype in Europe to demonstrate the possibility the future holds.