The Internet of Things is nothing to fear

"To me, it feels like IoT is where the web was in the mid- to late-90s," says Adrian McEwan, a self-described 'geek and entrepreneur' who founded MCQN Ltd., a product agency that advises companies on the IoT and connected devices.

"People can see it's going to change things massively, but it's not at all clear how that will pan out. Andy Huntington from BERG summed it up nicely that we're in the Geocities of Things phase at the moment. Lots of experimentation, out of which we'll discover what's useful and what isn't."

Packing our homes with sensors could give obvious, easy wins like mining temperature, room usage and weather data to fine-tune heating and ventilation.

It could also offer a way to help care for the ageing population through projects like BeClose that look for changes in an elderly relative's daily routine and sends alerts if anything seems amiss.

Wifi plant

This kind of sensor network doesn't have to be part of a corporate-owned data farm, either. Products like Ninja Blocks offer simple (ok, simple-ish if you already have some know-how) ways to build your own mesh of sensors that could work like an alarm system, a monitor to keep tabs on your houseplants or a humidity sensor for a wine cellar, using rules that you specify.

At the city level, simple but clever tech like the Big Belly smart bin keep tabs on their own usage and ask to be emptied when they are full, saving local councils money on over-collection and helping to reduce traffic pollution. In the rainforests of the Amazon, Invisible Tracck sensors are used to tag trees so that they can call out if illegally felled and transported near to a mobile phone network.

There are bound to be misfires and dead-ends in the race to connect the world to the internet. Some connected gadgets are just going to end up as novelties or 'me too' products while others will fit more usefully in to the new world of ubiquitous interconnectivity.

Over time, the real power of the IoT may come from how easily we are able to integrate all of those different data sources - perhaps for the first time, we could see the hidden connections between people in one part of the world and producers in another or how our actions in one part of our lives influences our health, or the state of our cities.

There may be privacy and data security concerns that need to be addressed but these are societal problems as much as they are technical. Both McEwan and Deschamps-Sonsino suggest that, in the UK at least, the BBC may come to have a role as a sort of honest broker in IoT data.

The Internet of Things is already here but within a decade it will be much more deeply embedded in or tightly interwoven with our lives.

It may not be a utopia, but there is enough to be hopeful about that we need not fear it.