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Get ready to live in a trillion-device world

Sharon Gaudin | Sept. 14, 2015
A swarm of sensors will let us control our environment with words or even thoughts.

While having a trillion-device life could happen in as little as 10 years, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli said there's a lot of work to be done to get there.

First, we simply don't have the network we'd need to support this many connected devices.

We would need communication protocols that consume very small amounts of energy and can transmit fluctuating amounts of information, the professor explained. Businesses would need to build massive numbers of tiny, inexpensive sensors. We'll need more and better security to fend off hacks to our clothing, walls and brains.

And the cloud will have to be grown out to handle all of the data that these trillion devices will create.

"Once you have the technology enabling all of this, we should be there in 10 years," said Sangiovanni-Vincentelli.

With all of these devices, many people will be anxious about what this means for personal privacy.

Sangiovanni-Vincentelli won't be one of them, though.

"Lack of privacy is not an issue," he said. "We've already lost it all... If the government wants me now, they have me. Everything is already recorded somewhere. What else is there to lose?"

Melroy also is more excited than nervous about this increasingly digital future.

"As a technologist, I don't fear technology," she said. "I think having ways that make us healthier and more efficient are a good thing... There is social evolution that happens with technological evolution. We once were worried about the camera and the privacy implications of taking pictures of people. The challenge is to make the pace of change match the social evolution."


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