Internet of Everything presents dichotomy of PaxEx implications


ANAHEIM: It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that Copenhagen Airport, a hub in a bastion of cutting edge Scandinavian design, is on the cutting edge of connecting with passengers. This was a central piece of Cisco’s Howard Charney discussion of the Internet of Everything (IoE) at the APEX Expo in Anaheim, California.

There, greeters use Google Glass to help passengers on their way. A wayfinding app gives passengers a trip overview. The Copenhagen Airport app can also tell a passenger to hurry to their gate when the boarding time draws near. But this, of course, means that the airport knows where you are. Thanks to all the connectivity demanded by modern passengers who need to tweet, Instagram, email, and Facebook during every stage of their journey, the airport can analyze traffic patterns and dwell times through anonymous contact with the smartphone at access points.

As with most major developments, the Internet of Everything presents a dichotomy of moral implications. On one hand, the benefits are undeniable. An epidermal patch developed at UCSD, for example, purports to be able to transmit data on the user’s health to connected devices.

Connectivity is a basic tenet of the Internet of Everything. Charney presented a forecast suggesting fifty billion things will be connected by the year 2050. Right now approximately 99% of things aren’t connected, meaning that they don’t tell us anything. In the Internet of Everything, what matters isn’t the number of connections, but the value that can be derived from them. Charney identifies the value as “wisdom”, which can help airlines better serve their passengers. The idea is that the more data you have, the more you can predict what passengers will need, thereby providing a better passenger experience. This has already been implemented with success on the ground.

Most undergraduate students might appreciate some alert telling them that they are projected to fail a class in one or two semesters. Arizona State University has gotten quite good at this exact thing, largely due to complete oversight of student and faculty activity, from class attendance, to food purchase, to when they enter a building. Predictive analytics has resulted in a 6.8% rise in the freshman retention rate over six years. Online enrollment grew 35.6% between 2012 and 2013.

This complete oversight, similar to something out of a lazy dystopian story, is the other moral side of the Internet of Everything coin. Our ability to collect and store vast amounts of information, according to Charney, clashes with privacy and security concerns. Google Glass effectively destroys anonymity, which is arguably acceptable in Copenhagen Airport as it is a secured area.

Security is a major concern of the Internet of Everything. Companies might be hesitant to share the data that they’ve collected, which hinders everyone’s ability to use it for predictive purposes. Customers might be concerned about data leakage—rightfully so when you consider the sheer number of recent data breaches.

It’s not all Big Brother out there. Copenhagen Airport’s Internet of Everything isn’t just limited to tracking passenger movement. Sensors attached to equipment helps keep loss low.

Right now, airlines knowing what you’ll do before you do it can seem unthinkable. But years ago, sending emails from 34,000 feet was unthinkable, and before that watching movies on a flight was inconceivable, and before that reaching Australia in a matter of days instead of months was downright mad. Humans adapt to new status quos quickly, and it looks like this might be the new world order. Welcome to a brave new world, ladies and gentlemen.