It's hard to ignore the Internet of Things. Pundits, futurists, tech companies and everyone in between seems to be talking about it. Gartner thinks the Internet of Things, or IoT, will reach 26 billion installed units and worldwide sales of $1.9 trillion by 2020.
But what do some of the world's experts think? A Pew Research survey conducted back in May questioned 1,600 experts on what the Internet of Things will look like in 2025.The results ranged from fascinating to terrifying. Here are some the wildest predictions from the survey:
If by 2025 most "things" are connected to the Internet, then they could in theory communicate information about themselves to us, at any time. And that's exactly what David Clark, a senior research scientist at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, thinks.
"The ability to put a scan tag on 'anything' will create a much more fluid and interwoven linkage between things in the 'real world' and their cyber-counterparts. This ability will provide many conveniences and benefits," he said in the survey. "A scannable world will be one in which people are always able to get information about essentially anything they encounter."
That would completely change how we use online search or what we ask digital personal assistants like Apple's Siri or Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) (Nasdaq: GOOGL) now. Information that presents itself to us, instead of being queried, may be big part of IoT.
Wearables as embedded devices
The wearable market is just getting started, but as the Internet of Things progresses wearable tech will evolve. JP Rangaswami, the chief scientist for Salesforce.com, said in the survey:
Wearable, connected devices will become embedded more and more in our bodies, more like implants, as in the [Google] Glass becoming more like contact lenses. As that happens, our ability to use nerve impulses to engage with information will expand dramatically. We will see today's connected devices become smaller and smaller and slowly merge into the part of the body from where the particular sense related to that device operates.
The death of privacy
Privacy is a common theme around technology, and the Internet of Things will heighten the tension. Marcel Bullinga, a futurist and author of Welcome to the Future Cloud -- 2025 in 100 Predictions, said, "We will not only have Google Glass-free zones everywhere, but also personal anti video firewalls around our body, protecting us from spying."
Nick Wredenn, of the University of Technology Malaysia agrees. He said, "There will be absolutely no privacy, not even in the jungle, away from civilization. I don't like this, but people have shown over and over again that they are willing to trade away their souls for a '$1 off' coupon."
This dystopian view of IoT's privacy faults is spurring tech companies to figure out the best way to secure the Internet of Things.
Social sharing like never before
According to some experts, IoT will also create new ways of social sharing that outpace Facebook and Twitter. Doc Searls, a journalist and director of ProjectVRM at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, thinks that we'll have ubiquitous personalized clouds with our information, photos, videos, etc. that will give companies and people varying degrees of access to it.
"People's Clouds of Things can be as personal and private as their houses (and, when encrypted, even more so). They can also be far more social than any 'social network' because they won't involve centralized control of the kind that Facebook, Google, and Twitter provide. Instead, they can connect to each other in a fully distributed way," he wrote.
One prediction that's not in the Pew survey but is worth noting comes from Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of both MIT's Media Lab and the One Laptop Per Child Association. Negroponte thinks many IoT predictions are "tragically pathetic" and laid out his vision of the future at TED2014 in March.
"We're going to swallow a pill and know English, and swallow a pill and know Shakespeare. It will go through the bloodstream and it will know when it's in the brain and, in the right places, it deposits the information," he said.
That's a hard idea to grasp right now, but Freescale Semiconductor and Proteus Digital Health have developed chips and sensors that are ingested into the body and monitor medication use, heart rate, physical activity, and more. These pills aren't teaching us a new language, but it's getting us one step closer to Negroponte's prediction.
While IoT is well under way, there are still plenty of unknowns. The predictions above are just that, ideas some experts believe will happen. There are still plenty of issues surrounding IoT, like how networks will handle additional capacity for billions of connected devices, how companies will make money from the new IoT endeavors, and how all the data will be secured. But if there's one thing the predictions do tell us, it's that you can't ignore the Internet of Things.