Yoda: The Internet Gets Physical

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The Internet Gets Physical


The New York Times, December 17, 2011


Low-cost sensors, clever software and advancing computer firepower are opening the door to new uses in energy conservation, transportation, health care and food distribution. The consumer Internet can be seen as the warm-up act for these technologies.

The concept has been around for years, sometimes called the Internet of Things or the Industrial Internet. Yet it takes time for the economics and engineering to catch up with the predictions. And that moment is upon us.

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The role of sensors — once costly and clunky, now inexpensive and tiny — was described this month in an essay in The New York Times by Larry Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology; he said the ultimate goal was “the sensor-aware planetary computer.”

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GLOBAL PULSE is a new initiative by the United Nations to leverage data from the consumer Internet for global development. So-called sentiment analysis of messages in social networks and phone text messages — using natural-language deciphering software — can help predict job losses or lower spending in a region, or disease outbreaks.

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