Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

A fundamental part of my role (and a part which I genuinely love) is to know what’s really going on in the technology world.  So I like to dive in at the deep end, subscribe to newsfeeds, follow Twitter lists and influential tweeters, and generally get bombarded with information from far and wide.

You could say it’s an occupational hazard, but it’d be great to get through a week without yet more buzzwords adding to the dire ocean that already exists, but that’s probably asking too much.  

Take last week for example…… I think I’m going to need a bigger boat……

I read about global energy giant General Electric’s three year “internet of things” strategy drive, supported a project fund of $1.5bn (Yep, I admit to being mildly jealous of anyone who has a $1.5bn at their disposal but I’m sure we’ll still produce some fantastic results with our slightly more modest R & D budget! See the previous post by fellow blogger Mat Peck).

Even ‘Techopedia’ says that the internet of things is difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best to condense it:  it’s the next phase of the internet.

In the first phase it was people who uploaded information to the internet; the internet of things means that everyday objects – from a car to your home thermostat – would have an internet connection and could therefore communicate with other ‘things’.

This would occur without any human help whatsoever, and the ‘things’ would think for themselves, letting us know when they need fixing and all sorts of other information.  It means everything in this world would be a mass system of rich data.

The internet of things is not a new concept but it is a buzzword which is becoming more frequent – as major players in the IT industry spearhead projects aimed at connecting billions of machines, capable of communicating without human involvement.

This whole idea is based on the fact that human beings can be pretty unreliable and often not very good at capturing data about things in the real world.  ‘Things’ are much better apparently…..

But we don’t always need to spend big bucks to come up with ideas that compensate for such human fallibility (and in some cases downright dishonesty!).

Take the simple digital image for example.

Thanks to the wonders of geo-tagging, your device (whether it’s a smartphone or one of those old-fashioned camera things) captures some vital information and embeds it into the image without you even knowing about it (unless you read the manual and disabled the feature, of course) and can even post it direct to an online location such as Skydrive, iCloud or Facebook.

In simple terms, that picture and the device that generates it are ‘things’.

And the information shared by those ‘things’ can be valuable and, to a certain extent, dangerous.

Hark, why dangerous?  Well it gives away information about your location and, as James Lyne of Sophos would tell you, that can lead to some interesting revelations when you’re trying to track down the people who are behind the thousands of malicious attacks on our systems on a daily basis.

There’s more to this story (in a future blog post I’m sure James will give you more details) but basically Sophos were victorious in their quest to track down some Russian cyber criminals thanks to a combination of exceptional detective work, geo-tagging and the incredibly advanced tool that’s a necessity in such situations – Google.

It would make great fodder for the next series of ‘World’s Dumbest Criminals’ – as the hackers posted photos of their head office online which made the search for their location a heck of a lot easier!

As for valuable, for a number of TSG customers, the combination of the image and the information captured on date, time, location, device and user is a powerful tool providing vital documentation on repairs and servicing activity, using Microsoft SharePoint to manage the data and workflow generated.

In fact, you could probably argue that it’s not only an example of ‘things’, it’s also about big data too (I’ll slap myself for the use of a buzzword later….).

Just goes to show that we really are working at the forefront of (accessible and affordable) technology!