"At the end of the year I have an accumulation of real data about how well the heating, ventilation and air conditioning has worked - this is proper engineering data and it means I can figure out how to adjust the systems."

Corking idea

Cerf isn't stopping there, and he has applied this logical gathering of data to one of his passions - his wine cellar.

"It occurred to me that in the case of the wine cellar that this is a very important room in the house because there are a couple of thousand bottles of wine in there. I need to keep it below 60 degrees fahrenheit so if the temperature goes up over that because the system fails I get an SMS on my mobile.

"I thought about this and realised that, seeing as I can also tell if the lights have gone off and on, I might be able to figure out if someone has gone into the wine cellar while I was away.

"So my next project is to put RFID chips on each bottle and then have a sensor so I can take inventory instantaneously to see if any bottles have left the cellar without my permission.

Home interfaces for devices are becoming common sights
Home interfaces for devices are becoming common sights

"I was proudly explaining this to one of my engineering friends and he said, 'There's a bug,' so I said, 'What do you mean there's a bug?' and he replied: 'Well you could go in and drink the wine and leave the bottle'.

Mike Muller, ARM CTO: "Everyone talks about big data but I'm into little data."

"That means I now have to put sensors in the cork and if you are going to do that you may as well sample the esters - which is what makes the wine taste the way it does.

"So before you open the bottle you would interrogate the cork and if that's the bottle that got up to 75 degrees, that's the bottle you give to someone who doesn't know the difference."

Big data, big concerns

That's all very well, but all this information being uploaded in huge amounts that would be difficult for humans to process efficiently (generally referred to as 'Big Data') is still information, and logical assumptions being made can swing both ways and be used both to help us, help monetise us for companies and, potentially, to harm us as well.

"Everyone talks about big data but I'm into little data," says ARM's Muller . "Our job is to make the little data available - if that data is "my space in this carpark is empty" someone else can turn that into a big data app of pricing models etc.

"We do little data and the question 'is who owns the little data?'. Take my Wi-Fi enabled weighing scales - it's my data - it uploads to my account and a family account, I'd share it with my gym so my personal trainer can nag me but I don't want the gym to sell that to my life insurance company.

"If you take something like the GPS insurance boxes for cars that you can get to keep your insurance down, it's their box, their data and they can do what the like with that. Imagine if they contact your life insurer and tell them 'Mr X is probably going to die because he drives dangerously'."

Data duplicity

Even something as simple as Cerf's heating data could be used in a variety of ways (good and bad) if it was public; showing when he is not at home for instance for any eagle-eyed burglars, or if you were a wine vendor you could time a brochure for the exact time his cellar supply was lagging and if the temperatures were fluctuating then it could alert a plumber.