The Reality Editor, a tool developed by the Fluid Interfaces Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points to a future in which everything from chairs and beds to televisions and cars can be connected, manipulated and controlled in new ways.
麻省理工学院（MIT）“流体界面小组”（Fluid Interfaces Group）开发的工具“现实编辑器”（Reality Editor）给我们展示了这样的未来：从椅子、床到电视、汽车的一切物品都能够以新的方式连接、操纵和控制。
Household objects equipped with processors and communications capabilities can, for example, be programmed so that your bed can turn on the heating system in your car as soon as you get up in the morning.
But if such technologies might make home living more convenient, they will also usher in profound changes for businesses and society.
Critically, internet of things technologies — which include processors, software and web-enabled sensors — also allow objects to capture and transmit data instantly and constantly.
On the plus side, this can pave the way for the delivery of more efficient services. In New York, for example, rubbish bins and recycling units developed by Bigbelly, a US-based technology and waste management company, can automatically notify collection agencies when they are full.
好的一面是，这为提供更高效率的服务铺平了道路。比如，在纽约，美国科技和废品处理公司 Bigbell 研发的垃圾箱和回收站能够在满了以后自动通知收集机构。
Full of rubbish: Bigbelly’s bins send notifications when they need to be emptied © Alamy
With everything from lampposts and traffic lights to weather satellites generating information all the time, cities can now analyse data to improve the world around us. Harriet Green, general manager of internet of things and education for US technology company IBM, says: “Knowing from these predictive models where the pollution is coming from allows city planners to make important decisions on how to improve air quality.”
鉴于从灯柱、交通灯到气象卫星的一切每时每刻都在产生信息，如今的城市可以对数据进行分析以改善我们的生活环境。美国科技公司 IBM 物联网和教育总经理哈丽雅特·格林（Harriet Green）表示：“通过预测模型得知哪里在产生污染，能够让城市规划者就如何改善空气质量做出重要决策。”
Such technologies offer companies the chance to cut costs, says Gabe Batstone, chief executive of Contextere, a software start-up that develops services for industrial workforces based on machine learning — the technique behind much artificial intelligence — and internet of things technologies. With sensors generating data on the status of equipment, the work of maintaining machinery and preventing breakdowns will be transformed, saving companies large amounts of money, Mr Batstone says.
软件初创企业 Contextere 首席执行官盖布·巴特斯通（Gabe Batstone）表示，这些技术给企业提供了削减成本的机会。该公司基于机器学习（很多人工智能背后的技术）和物联网技术开发面向工人的服务。巴特斯通说，传感器产生有关设备状态的数据，使机器维护和故障防止工作彻底改观，为企业节省大量资金。
“There’s information on the device, the device knows what maintenance is needed and the employee has access to a supercomputer — otherwise known as a cell phone — right there,” he says. “That’s going to have a monumental impact on business operations.”
In the water industry, for example, sensors can supply continuous data on the physical integrity of pipes, helping to detect weaknesses and prevent leaks.
The same principle can also be put to work in the human body. Wearable and implantable sensors that can track everything from blood sugar levels to heart rates will allow irregular or life-threatening symptoms to be detected early. They will also enable people to take steps — through changes to diet or exercise regimes — to manage conditions such as diabetes or to lower their risk of illness.
This could turn healthcare from a system designed to cure diseases and repair injuries to one that works to prevent illness and maintain good health.
Of course, such changes also have implications for human resources. When equipment can be fixed remotely and patients remain at home, engineers and nurses may need to take on different roles. For some companies, it will mean hiring people with new skills.
The advent of smart thermostats such as Nest, for example, means plumbing and heating companies now need IT skills since a system breakdown may have as much to do with a broadband connection as with the pipes or the boiler. “It’s turned that industry on its head,” says Tim Devine, a digital business expert at PA Consulting Group.
比如，Nest 等智能恒温器的问世，意味着管道和供暖公司现在需要 IT 技能，因为系统的故障有可能和管道或者锅炉有关，也有可能和宽带连接有关。“这让这个行业发生了翻天覆地的变化”，博安咨询（PA Consulting）数字业务专家蒂姆·迪瓦恩（Tim Devine）说。
“The guy running a boiler company, where the key still is engineering, pipes, gas and big chunks of metal, is now running an IT company.”
“尽管一家锅炉公司的关键依然是工程、管道、天然气和大型金属件，但运营锅炉公司的人现在运营着 IT 公司。”
Internet of things technologies will also create a need for new services and business models. “It’s great that I can get a warning on my smartphone telling me someone is walking around my house,” says Mr Devine. “But I need to be able to ring a local security service, otherwise I’m just worried.”
Moreover, because these new models depend on a complex system of organisations — from software companies to broadband service providers and device manufacturers — questions of liability will arise.
Mr Devine cites the example of a home heating system: “What happens with the boiler if the thermostat turns itself up while you’re away and you come back to a ￡1,000 heating bill. Whose liability is that?”
While such questions have yet to be addressed, Mr Batstone argues that consumer technology has already paved the way for adoption of the internet of things by a broad range of businesses.
“In our personal life, we’re used to our calendar telling us what time to leave to go to a meeting, giving us a map and checking the traffic,” he says.
“So what the consumer side has already done is to allow us to accept that artificial intelligence and machine learning can be useful.”