无处不在的互联网:物联网时代即将来临

原文链接:‘Internet of Things’ in Reach – WSJ


From meat thermometers monitored with a smartphone to Wi-Fi-equipped dog collars, devices and services in homes and businesses are increasingly being connected to the Internet, a long-awaited trend that is causing a surge of optimism in the tech sector.

从以智能手机监控的肉类温度计到配备 Wi-Fi 的犬只项圈,家用和商用的设备与服务越来越多地与互联网相连,这一人们期待已久的趋势正引发科技行业汹涌的乐观情绪。

Large and small companies are churning out a number of Internet-connected gadgets, a central theme as the Consumer Electronics Show opens this week in Las Vegas.

大大小小的公司纷纷推出众多连接互联网的设备,这是消费电子展(Consumer Electronics Show)本周在拉斯维加斯开幕之际的一个中心主题。

Devices on the market or the drawing board include smart door locks, toothbrushes, wristwatches, fitness trackers, smoke detectors, surveillance cameras, ovens, toys and robots.

已经上市或尚在设计中的设备包括智能门锁、牙刷、腕表、健身记录仪、烟雾探测器、监控摄像头、炉具、玩具和机器人。

But the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things still is largely a collection of possibilities. Sales of the new-wave products are threatened by a number of stumbling blocks that could slow investment–from conflicting wireless-communications standards to debates about how much processing power should be built into gadgets.

但规模大大膨胀的“物联网”(Internet of Things)在很大程度上仍然只是各种可能性的集合。这些新浪潮产品的销售受到众多可能减缓投资的障碍威胁――从互相矛盾的无线通信标准到有关设备处理能力的争论不一而足。

Some industry executives say privacy concerns may be even more serious, without a consensus on how to exploit all the data that could be generated by a flood of new sensors and Internet-connected video cameras.

一些业内高管认为,人们对隐私的担忧可能更严重,因为一大批新传感器和连接互联网的视频摄像头将产生大量数据,这些数据如何加以利用尚未形成共识。

“Big data is worth absolutely nothing without big judgment,” says Joseph Bradley, director of what Cisco Systems Inc. calls its ‘Internet of Everything’ consulting practice.

思科系统(Cisco Systems Inc.)“万物互联”(Internet of Everything)咨询服务的负责人布拉德利(Joseph Bradley)说,如果没有重要的判断力,大数据绝对是毫无价值。

Nonetheless, heavyweights like General Electric Co., Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. are jockeying for position.

然而,通用电气(General Electric Co.)、英特尔(Intel Corp.)和高通(Qualcomm Inc.)等重量级企业都在纷纷抢占有利地位。

“I’ve never seen our industry go as fast as it is, or create as much value,’ says Marc Benioff, chief executive of Inc. ‘It’s a very magical time.”

Inc.首席执行长贝尼奥夫(Marc Benioff)说,我从未见过我们的行业如此迅猛地发展,或创造如此之大的价值。这是个极度神奇的时代。

Cisco estimates that the number of devices connected to the Internet will swell from about 10 billion today to 50 billion by 2020, as wireless links spread beyond smartphones and PCs to many other kinds of devices. The Silicon Valley giant’s chief executive, John Chambers, is expected to discuss the opportunities Tuesday in a keynote speech at CES.

思科估计,随着无线连接从智能手机和电脑扩散到众多其他类型的设备,连接互联网的设备数量将从当前的约100亿迅速增加到2020年的500亿。这家硅谷巨头的首席执行长钱伯斯(John Chambers)预计周二在消费电子展的主旨演讲中将探讨相关机会。

Gartner Inc. puts the number of connected devices at fewer than 30 billion, but sees \$309 billion in additional revenue for product and service suppliers by 2020 and \$1.9 trillion in total economic impact from cost savings, improved productivity and other factors.

市场研究机构 Gartner Inc. 预计到2020年连网设备数量不到300亿,但预计产品和服务提供商营收将增加3,090亿美元,同时因成本节省、生产率提高和其他因素给经济造成的影响总计达1.9万亿美元。

The vision of a world of smart gadgets emerged even before the Web. A.C. ‘Mike’ Markkula, a co-founder of Apple Computer Inc., had a brainstorm in the mid-1980s about combining functions for networking and controlling devices on a single chip. Those ‘neurons,’ as they came to be called, were expected to spread widely once their cost fell to around \$1. But the company he founded, Echelon Corp., didn’t hit that target and has had a bumpy history.

对于智能设备世界的设想早在互联网时代之前就已有之。苹果电脑公司(Apple Computer Inc.)联合创始人马库拉(”Mike” Markkula)在上世纪80年代就灵机一动提出了将网络与控制设备的功能集合于一块芯片上的想法。人们预计,这种后来被称为“神经元”的芯片成本一旦下降到1美元左右,将会广为传播。但马库拉创建的公司 Echelon Corp. 未能达到这个目标,经历了坎坷历史。

“I keep kicking myself,” he says. “I was 20 years too soon.”

马库拉说,我一直严厉自责。我的想法早了20年。

Chip makers did steadily push down the cost of adding intelligence to everyday gadgets, often to less than \$5. Another driver has been the onslaught of smartphones and tablets, which can serve as handy Web-connected remote controls for devices in the home and workplace.

芯片生产商确实稳步压低了将日常设备智能化的成本,这类成本通常不到5美元。另一个推动力是智能手机和平板电脑的横空出世,它们可以作为方便的家用和商用设备连网遥控器。

Potential benefits range from fairly prosaic to profound. Consumers, for example, can now use smartphones to remotely check if they locked doors, left the lights on or turned down the thermostat. Retailers can help smartphone users find goods on store shelves, and wirelessly pitch sales promotions. Parking meters can communicate with smartphone users.

可能的好处从平平无奇到意义深远。例如,现在消费者可以利用智能手机远程检查自己是否锁了门、忘记关灯或是否关掉了恒温器。零售商可以帮助智能手机用户找到商店货架上的商品,并通过无线网络进行促销宣传。停车计时器也可以与智能手机用户交流。

Companies like Silver Spring Networks Inc. sell wireless meters to manage energy usage, while GE exploits data generated by sensors to monitor the health of jet engines and gas turbines.

Silver Spring Networks Inc. 这样的公司销售管理能源使用的无线计量表,通用电器则利用传感器产生的数据监控喷气式发动机和燃气涡轮的情况。

The opportunities have attracted a number of startups, some of which have managed to raise substantial funding from venture capitalists. The best-known is Nest Labs Inc., a maker of Wi-Fi-equipped thermostats and smoke detectors led by former Apple Inc. executive Tony Fadell. Another example is August, which is developing smart door locks and has raised $10 million to date.

这样的机会吸引了一大批初创企业,其中一些成功地从风险投资家那里筹集了可观的资金。其中最有名的就是 Nest Labs Inc.,该公司生产配备 Wi-Fi 的恒温器和烟雾探测器,其领导者是苹果公司(Apple Inc.)前高管法德尔(Tony Fadell)。另一个例子是生产智能门锁的 August,迄今已筹资1,000万美元。

Others are leaning heavily on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as investors worry about the potential costs of hatching hardware startups–and the likelihood that entrenched companies will adapt their existing products to dominate Internet-of-Things opportunities.

其他一些初创企业严重依赖Kickstarter和Indiegogo之类的众投网站,原因是投资者担忧硬件初创企业的潜在孵化成本,以及地位稳固的公司将调整现有产品、主导“物联网”机遇的可能性。

“The body count is quite high of startups that have made hardware,” says Jason Johnson, August’s CEO and founder of the Internet of Things Consortium.

August 首席执行长、非营利组织 Internet of Things Consortium 的创始人约翰逊(Jason Johnson)说,生产硬件的初创公司为数众多。

For those reasons, some startups are developing new services to help manage connected devices, while existing companies are modifying business models to exploit the data likely to flow from them. Insurance companies, for example, can respond to sensors and wireless connections in cars to charge drivers by the mile and speed they drive, instead of by where they live.

出于这些原因,一些初创公司在开发新的服务以帮助管理互联设备,而现有的企业则纷纷修正业务模式,以利用互联设备可能产生的数据。例如保险公司可以利用汽车中的传感器和无线连接,依据驾驶里程数和行驶速度来向驾车者收取费用,而不是依据驾车者的居住地。

“The value of the devices will be secondary to the services they enable,” says Thomas Lee, a Stanford University professor of electrical engineering and co-founder of Ayla Networks Inc., an online service hoping to help turn ordinary products into cloud-connected devices.

斯坦福大学(Standord University)电气工程学教授、Ayla Networks Inc. 联合创始人 Thomas Lee 说,这些设备本身的价值相比它们使之成为可能的服务来说是次要的。Ayla Networks 是一个网络服务,希望帮助将普通产品转化为云联网设备。

So far, however, smart-home products seem mainly to be attracting technology enthusiasts. Only 1% to 2% of American consumers surveyed by Forrester Research in mid-2013 were using five widely touted home-automation offerings. Some 28% of respondents said they were interested in controlling appliances with a smartphone, but 53% weren’t.

然而到目前为止,智能家用产品似乎主要还是吸引着科技迷。研究公司 Forrester Research 在2013年中调查的美国消费者中,仅有1%至2%的受调查者在使用五种广受吹捧的家用自动化产品。大约28%的受调查者说,他们对于以智能手机控制家电有兴趣,但53%的人表示没兴趣。

Other hurdles face companies tackling the Internet of Things, including a fragmented assortment of wireless communications technologies. In home automation, for example, device makers face options that include Insteon, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigby, Z-Wave and earlier proprietary technologies.

还有其他一些障碍令企业难以抓住“物联网”的机遇,包括无线通信技术形形色色的类型。比如在家庭自动化方面,设备生产商就面临着多种选择,包括 Insteon、Wi-Fi、蓝牙、Zigby、Z-Wave 和更早的专利技术。

“It’s not that things aren’t getting connected–they are getting connected badly,” says Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm’s interactive platforms unit.

高通的互动平台部门负责人钱德霍克(Rob Chandhok)说,实际上并不是没有实现“万物互联”,而是它们互联的方式太糟糕了。

Qualcomm is trying to rally hardware makers around a technology called AllJoyn to help devices discover each other and collaborate. Meanwhile, startups trying to sell their own control devices are going through contortions; Revolv Inc., for example, is marketing a hub that can communicate using seven different radio technologies.

高通正试图让硬件生产商团结在一项名为AllJoyn的技术周围,帮助各种设备相互发现并协作。与此同时,那些试图出售自己的控制设备的初创公司也在经历种种扭曲;如 Revolv Inc. 正在营销一款中央枢钮设备,可以利用七种不同的无线电技术进行通信。

Mike Soucie, Revolv’s co-founder and marketing head, says agreements on key communications technologies may be five to 10 years away. Any standards that do emerge are likely to apply to a single market–like home security or transportation–rather than to many industries, predicts Gilad Meiri, chief executive of Neura Inc., a startup developing technology to help orchestrate connected devices.

Revolv 联合创始人兼营销负责人苏西(Mike Soucie)说,可能要五至10年才能就关键的通信技术达成协议。初创公司 Neura Inc. 首席执行长梅里(Gilad Meiri)说,得以浮现的任何标准都有可能是适用于某个单一市场(如家庭安全或交通),而不是在多行业通行。Neura 致力于开发相关技术,帮助协调互联设备。

Assuming devices can communicate, manufacturers need conventions for telling them what to do and how to work together. Meanwhile, other basic questions remain–like just how much intelligence should everyday devices have?

假设不同设备之间能够实现交流,生产商就需要有统一的标准来下达指令以及让这些设备相互合作。同时也还有其他一些基本的问题――比如日常设备应当具备多高的智能?

Companies like Intel and ARM Holdings PLC, which license technology to chip makers, stress the benefits brought by processors that can run sophisticated software and protocols that allow them to connect directly to the Internet.

英特尔和 ARM Holdings PLC 这类向芯片生产商提供技术许可的公司强调可运行复杂软件和协议的处理器所带来的好处,这样的处理器可让设备直接连接互联网。

But others believe such complex technology can reduce the reliability of home appliances and other devices, while raising the odds of bugs or security holes that could be exploited by attackers. They prefer simpler chips called microcontrollers, which are harder to reprogram to do unintended things.

但也有人认为,如此复杂的科技可能降低家用电器和其他设备的可靠性,同时增加可能被攻击者利用的安全漏洞的机率。他们更青睐名为微控制器的较小芯片,这类芯片更难以通过再编程去从事计划之外的任务。

“I want my refrigerator to be a thing; I don’t want it to be a computer,” says Shane Dyer, chief executive of Arrayent Inc., a startup marketing a Web-based service to manage microcontroller-powered devices.

初创公司 Arrayent Inc. 的首席执行长戴尔(Shane Dyer)说:我希望我的冰箱是个物件;我不希望它成为一台电脑。Arrayent 营销一项基于网络的服务,用于管理以微控制器掌控的设备。

Moreover, the data generated by connected devices could be used in ways consumers don’t like and create liabilities for companies. Chris Bruce, chief executive of Sproutling–a startup developing a smartphone-connected baby monitor–wonders if services that store data from connected devices might get subpoenas if something bad happens.

另外,联网设备所产生的数据可能被用于消费者不愿意的用途,并给企业带来麻烦。初创公司 Sproutling 首席执行长布鲁斯(Chris Bruce)在思考,如果发生不好的事情,那些存储联网设备所产生数据的服务会不会被诉诸法庭。该公司开发与智能手机相连的婴儿监视器。

There are at least as many questions about the fast-growing flood of data from Internet-connected security cameras.

连接互联网的安全摄像头产生了迅速增长的数据洪流,这些数据也同样引起了众多问题。

“It is more than a little creepy,” says David Alan Grier, an associate professor of science and technology policy at George Washington University and 2013 president of the IEEE Computer Society. “There is going to have to be some clear thinking and some clear understanding of what is going on.”

乔治华盛顿大学(George Washington University)科学与技术政策副教授、2013年 IEEE Computer Society 主席格里尔(David Alan Grier)说,这令人很有些毛骨悚然。未来人们必须清晰地思考和了解这一切是怎么回事。

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