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And Now I'm a Thing

I successfully avoided buying an Apple Watch, but I've jumped headlong into the fitness band craze with a Withings Activité Steel watch, iOS companion app, and its Connected Blood Pressure Monitor. Every time I walk, I wear the watch. I swing my left arm purposefully during the walk to register each step so that I can track my 10,000 steps per day progress.

I've enabled Find My iPhone on my Apple iPhone 5 so that I can locate my phone if I misplace it and so that my family can locate me should anything happen to me on the road. When I participate in 10K and in quarter marathon races, I wear an RFID sensor on my chest that marks the time I cross the Start and the Finish lines. My Chrome browser tracks my Internet breadcrumbs and my cookies as I go in search of information and new opportunities. I'm tracked during my gym workouts – reps, weight, and the number of times I show up during a month. I'm a number generator. I'm a demographic. And I'm an endpoint. But, at the most empirical level, I'm a thing.

Ever since I first heard the term, "Internet of Things," in late 2013 I realized that a true revolution was about to happen. You see, things – not the Internet of Things, but just things – change in two ways in the IT world: evolution and revolution. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those rare revolutionary changes that happens right before our eyes. And it happens so quickly that we have a difficult time pinning down when the revolution started and when the evolution of the technology began. For the early enlightened, the IoT revolution began back in 1999 when Kevin Ashton first used the term "Internet of Things" in public. For the rest of us, the revolution began in 2013. The zeitgeist must have been in a 14-year slump.

The zeitgeist has swept me along into the world of analytics but not with a bang or with a whimper. It was a matter of evolution. Participating in social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (yes, Google+), and LinkedIn, I recently realized that my posts, tweets, and excerpts from my life are gathered and analyzed by cold algorithms that distill my essence into sentiment, trends, and somatic advertising markers. I have evolved into a random, non-sentient collection of 140-character interactions with a living stream of other non-sentient entities.

Advertisers and marketers have for generations attempted to change our behaviors by placing ads in the backs of magazines, in newspapers, on the radio, and on television. Those ads are designed to convince us that we need to buy something. They show desirable products with excellent lighting, attractive spokespeople, and music that's meant to make us seek out those products and to believe that we're making informed purchases. Now, what we say, what we write, what we post, the places we visit, the people we work with, and even the places we live feed large analytical engines that create ads for products and services that we really want to see. We want, we click, and we buy. We have become things – things with buying power.

The Internet of Things isn't evil. It has no personality. Its sensors click on and off, gather sentiment, measure paces, store data, and report information. No harm comes to anyone in performing these functions. There's no animal testing. There's no artery-clogging cholesterol anywhere in the ingredients. But somehow the whole thing feels unsavory, unpalatable, and unseemly.

I thought the Internet of Things was a friendly technology. I thought it was going to revolutionize data gathering and reporting for temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, water flow, electricity measurement, fuel consumption, radiation exposure, and sunspots. Instead, it has transitioned into another way to sell me another thing. Somehow I thought I'd never join the IoT revolution, nor did I suspect to evolve into a walking, talking, clicking endpoint device whose every movement and every action required analysis. You've evolved into a thing. I've evolved into a thing. We are all now a collective of things. The chaotic chorus of evolving clicks, chirps, and tweets that collect us, extract us, and pour us back out into a silicon mold that fits just right.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor