My dubious decision to upgrade my mobile phone and its rather confusing and frustrating aftermath got me to thinking about this new buzz phrase, the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Okay so it’s not new, it’s actually been around since at least 1999, when Kevin Ashton, co-founder of MIT’s Auto-ID Center, coined it to describe the potential of RFID technology for Proctor & Gamble’s supply chain. IoT is the subject of white papers, technology websites, a couple of international councils, and endless conversations. With predictions of the number of devices connected to IoT climbing into the 200 billion range by 2020, IoT is poised to take over nearly every aspect of our lives. And depending on the definition you use, we may already be there. And what does it mean for content producers … writers, designers, illustrators, editors, directors, filmmakers and so on?
My dryer has sensors that turn it off when the clothes are dry. I have a Samsung fit watch that counts the number of steps I take during the day. My car continually calculates the mpg for me. My phone decides (0f its own volition apparently) when to download videos, track my location, or set an alarm. Just four examples in an average person’s life. Sensors or processors seem to be in everything already, and the machine-to-machine communications that take place already dwarf human-to-machine and human-to-human communications. That gives rise to large questions for those of us who create content that should be relevant and useful to people who use stuff. When does data become content? How do we manage that much information? How interconnected can the content producers really be when content is embedded throughout the stuff we use as part of the IoT?
Our new poll question is really designed to stir some debate, not come up with absolute definitions for terms like “content” or arbitrary and movable divisions between content creators and other organization functions like engineering or marketing. We’re more interested in how the content professions might evolve, and what new skills sets we should consider mastering. It’s been a long time (if it ever was the case) since most of us were “just writers.” Will content teams take on new roles such as data analysis or product design? Can we finally stop worrying about titles and get on with the work?
Take a few minutes to ponder the scenarios we present in the poll question, vote, and even more important, start a discussion on what it really means to be a part of the content profession in the age of the Internet of Things.