There’s a new phrase suggesting a big expansion of the use of information technology. It’s called the Internet of everything. What does it mean, and why might it be important? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.
“Well, it essentially means putting everything online. It means connecting. It means wiring. It means adding sensors and monitors. It means dramatically increasing the flow of information between machines, between infrastructure and between people. And it means upping the availability of real time data.
“Now, a lot of experts think this could be a big boon for the economy, because it means that, for example, let’s say you are a traffic engineer and you’re monitoring the safety of bridges in your city, well, you’ve got sensors on those bridges. You can pin-point where there’s stress and where there are problems. You don’t have to wait for the bridge to collapse.
“Same thing with a business on the assembly line. They can use these monitors and all this real time data to pinpoint where there are problems and bottle necks. Now, of course, some people do see a down side to this. They worry about the pervasiveness of big data. They worry about the implications for privacy.
“But economists — although we do recognize privacy concerns — if we did wire everything and put everything together and monitor everything, that could dramatically boost the productivity of the overall economy. And usually that translates to higher standards of living. So this is something, perhaps, to look for down the road. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but this, I think, is the direction that we’re probably moving toward.”