Instrumenting the world – The web as a sensory net

As Google turns 10 they posted a great summary about where collective intelligence is headed:

we’ll … see a rush of new devices customized to particular applications, and more environmental sensors and actuators, all sending and receiving data via the cloud. The increasing number and diversity of interactions will not only direct more information to the cloud, they will also provide valuable information on how people and systems think and react… Thus, computer systems will have greater opportunity to learn from the collective behavior of billions of humans. They will get smarter, gleaning relationships between objects, nuances, intentions, meanings, and other deep conceptual information.

In other words more devices and more people are connecting to the global Internet every day.  100 million new people join the 1.4 billion people every six weeks (these figures pulled from This holds a lot of promise to instrument the world and help address big issues.   As Tim O’Reilly says in his post, Web Meets World:

there’s a huge contribution that Web 2.0 techniques can make specifically to the world’s biggest problems. Instedd’s approach to early detection of infectious diseases, Ushahidi’s approach to crowdsourcing crisis information, Witness’s harnessing of consumer video to report on human rights abuses, and AMEE’s APIs for exchanging carbon data between applications, are all part of the “instrumenting the world” trend

The other key factor driving the next phase of collective intelligence is that more and more this data will come from sensors such as the GPS in our phones and Internet connected sensors monitoring our homes, buildings and vehicles.  This data will drive a whole new class of potential decision-making and problem solving that could include energy, food distribution, emergency management and disease control.   It will also open new opportunities for start-ups that harness these data types.   Google’s primary advantage comes from it’s data on user searches for web pages.  There is fertile territory to conquer these new classes of data coming from sensory devices and wrap value added services upon them.


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