A plane communicating with an airport parts depot? Your refrigerator talking to a power grid?
A panel of technology executives says a peer-to-peer network made up exclusively of machines is just on the horizon.
The law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo recently sponsored a Daily Transcript roundtable on the development of the "Internet of things (IOT)."
"This technology exists and has existed," said Venkat Shastri, president & CEO of PCN Technologies. "What's changing is the scale and standardization and the adoption models. That becomes a tipping point for this to really take off."
Homeowners are now able to control the temperature in their house, arm the security system and turn off the irrigation system through their smartphone.
Smart meters in houses will allow for variable-rate pricing based on use, and there's technology that will enable consumers to pay parking meters and add time remotely if they can't get back to the car before time runs out.
"I think IOT represents an opportunity for a massive new set of products and services," said David Gell, co-founder & chief technology officer of Cygnus Broadband. "Look at (the amount) of retail development that's occurring right now. There's an explosion of new ideas."
In the not-too-distant future, vending machines might be able to tell the distributor when certain products are sold out, allowing the re-stocking to be based on need and not a randomly set schedule for deliveries.
"After you get in that kind of (machine-to-machine) program, you find other savings you didn't think were going to happen," said Robert Lutz, director of project management and business development for Systech Corp. "Improved service, improved time to market; all sorts of side benefits."
Another industry segment that will benefit from the implementation of IOT is the medical field, Lutz said. Doctors will be able to remotely monitor patients who are back in their home. Fitbits — a wireless band that monitors walking, calorie intake and hours of sleep — are already a popular accessory of the health-conscious consumer.
"Patient records can be transmitted electronically," said Jere Carroll, vice president of sales for Technology Integration Group. "That really enables the health care system to operate a lot more effectively. Rather than have a patient carry all their records with them and all those images and all those X-rays."
The expansion of technology, and with people putting more personal information online, privacy and security concerns grow as well.
Lutz said the individual device is the most difficult thing to protect.
Leticia Cano, president of Biomarker Profiles, said her company isolates sensitive information by keeping certain computers offline.
While some might think the absence of protection is a failure of technology, Carroll said it's more a limitation of technology.
"There'll always be something technology cannot do," he said, "but if you integrate regulation and policy with technology, then you manage your information well, you can take advantage of technology.
"[Security] is a very dynamic thing, and there's always going to be countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures to whatever protection you put in place."
Shastri said one way to solve the security problem is to develop an authentication system where the personal information is stripped before the transaction data is sent to the vendor.
"I think the conundrum we have today is a result more of the fact we haven't architected the system correctly," he said. "There are a million ways to hide personal information."
Other panelists were less optimistic.
Patent attorney Pedro Suarez, a partner with Mintz Levin, said you cannot architect a perfect system.
Tal Almog, vice president of operations for MaintenanceNet Inc., agreed that smart individuals will always come up with ways to overcome security measures.
"Everything that's online is penetrable," he said. "In my personal life, I assume that everything I write, everything I post is public. I think we'll get better in security, but then they'll be better in cracking that security."
Cygnus' Gell said the business model that monetizes the selling of personal information will need to be changed for consumers to regain their privacy. If there were a fee to join social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then maybe they would agree not to sell users' data, he speculated.
Tal Almog, Vice President of Operations, MaintenanceNet Inc.
Leticia Cano, President, Biomarker Profiles
Jere Carroll, Vice President of Sales, Technical Integration Group
Neal Fischer, President and Founder, Hershey Technologies
David Gell, CTO and Co-Founder, Cygnus Broadband
Fritz Hesse, Vice President of Operations, Mitek Systems Inc.
Carl Kukkonen, Partner, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC (sponsor)
Robert Lutz, Director of Project Management and Business Development, Systech Corp.
Dr. Venkat Shastri, President and CEO, PCN Technologies
Pedro Suarez, Partner, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC (sponsor)
George Chamberlin, Executive Editor, The Daily Transcript
Doug Sherwin, The Daily Transcript