We have known for a century, thanks to Einstein, that "matter" is energy (or at least can be converted to energy, and vice versa).
A lesser known extension of his work that incorporates quantum mechanics discoveries made in the last few decades postulates that matter is actually a form of information. Energy is a form of information. It’s all information, and we’re somehow enmeshed in a consciousness that creates, perceives, or in some fashion participates in this bundle of multifarious information.
It is becoming more and more accepted in scientific circles, led by physicists, that everything— from the tree in the meadow to the hair on your arm, from the flash of the shooting star to the sound of the cabbie honking his horn or the smell of the bread wafting out of the corner deli window—indeed, all of reality is in a very real sense… simply information.
I guess that this all fits well into the modern evolving narrative, because never has a society revolved more around the creation, acquisition, and exchange of information than ours today. Enter the Internet of Things, or IoT.
The Internet of Things
What is this “Internet of Things” (IoT) and why is it important? IoT is all about information. It has to do with the connection of all sorts of devices to the Internet. Devices that communicate information about the status, trends, and conditions of, well, everything. It’s what the monitoring of your heartbeat, the temperature of the eggs in your fridge, and the latest sea level fluctuations on Madagascar share—they can all be virtually instantaneously monitored by anyone interested who has been granted access to them from virtually anywhere on the planet at any time. All that is needed are the “things” or devices to gather and communicate the information.
What’s cool about it is that these things in and of themselves don’t matter one iota. It’s what they do for us that matters. How can we harness the power of communications, the vast information exchange network we call the Internet, to better our lives through possessing accurate and efficient information about all these things? The possibilities are nearly limitless.
IoT and transportation
One area of our lives that is being impacted on a massive scale by the IoT is the field of transportation. Let’s assume that we would all like to see automobile commuters freed up by 90% to either relax, play games, sleep, or maybe catch up on some work, while en route to and from their jobs rather than fighting the all-too-prevalent traffic jam. Dare we dream that over the next 25 years, an improvement in efficiency of movement –getting from point A to point B—by 75% for all manner of travelers is achievable (even including the anticipated growth in population that will occur during this period)? Why not shoot for the moon and let’s go for a reduction in vehicle-related fatalities by 99% compared to current levels by 2041.
Could you get behind these lofty goals? Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) just might make all of these things happen, and they will do it by harnessing the power of IoT.
IoT in ITS
IoT in ITS (Internet of Things in Intelligent Transportation Systems) is already making possible the real-time efficient gathering and dissemination of detailed, location-specific traffic status, weather and road conditions all over the country, and in various parts of the world. Cameras and a panoply of sensors gather and shunt accurate, granular, timely information about just about anything one could imagine to central gathering points where information is made available at the appropriate levels to the people that need it.
Advances in technology are leading to sophisticated collision danger detection and avoidance systems. Intelligent vehicle tracking and separation, and eventually driverless vehicles, all with an end goal of freeing up drivers from the chore and fatigue of running the gauntlet of the public road system, will also lead to dramatic improvements in efficiency and safety.
Soon enough, we will possess real-time visibility into virtually every environmental condition in the transportation network, everywhere and at all times. But most importantly, what is happening now at the place where one currently is and where one is heading will assist travelers and public safety personnel alike in a myriad of ways. Thanks to the emergence of the IoT, we can look forward to more efficient, safer, and more enjoyable travel on our roads and highways.
Colonizing the galaxy
When I was a boy, I marveled that we could send a man to walk on the moon, and knew that surely by now we would be colonizing the galaxy. It imbued me with a palpable sense of wonder. While that vision has not yet come to pass, we have excelled in other areas of a more terrestrial nature, not least in the realms of communications and transportation. IoT in ITS marries the two, and a little bit of that sense of wonder is back as I contemplate where all this is headed.
If you want to learn more about this exciting topic, grab a seat for the presentation by Israel Lopez, consultant to Nevada Department of Transportation, at Interop Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Conference Center, Breakers F, starting at 10:30 AM, Monday, May 2.It’s all about information—heck, it is all information. I’m glad to know it and to be playing a small role in building this IoT in ITS… for your information!
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