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What Does Collective Intelligence Have to Do With IoT?

By on October 25, 2016
IoT and the Superbrain

The human brain is the result of millions of years of growth and evolution and, according to recent research, is comprised of approximately 86 billion neurons (though some estimates cite 100 billion). Each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections . Does this remind you of anything?

Since the Internet of Things emerged in 2008-2009, it has changed the way businesses, governments and consumers interact with the physical world. In 2015, Gartner said that 6.4 billion connected “things” would be in use in 2016 and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. The firm also said that in 2016, 5.5 million new things would get connected every day.

Imagine what all of these interconnected devices are doing each time they connect to each other – it’s similar to what happens when a lot of neurons are firing off synapses. The IoT phenomenon is mimicking the brain’s interconnectedness and flexibility, but at a much faster rate than what it took for our brains to get to this point today. The IoT will soon look a lot like a super brain. Watch the video to learn more, or read the article below.

IoT Devices Are Sensory Inputs

Connected devices are linking data from pretty much everything, ranging from tires and fridges to infant monitors and satellites. Right now, these IoT devices collect data from the world around us, creating sensory inputs and eliciting intelligent reactions beyond what we originally imagined.

At the heart of our human behavior is sensory processing, which is essentially how the brain copes with streams of data. Sensory processing is a complex set of actions that enables the brain to understand what‘s going on both inside your own body and in the world around you.

There’s a continuous flow of information available from all the sensory systems, and the brain must sort through the information, prioritize and emphasize components to decide both how to understand what is going on and what you will do based on the information available.

The firing of brain synapses to elicit the appropriate response is similar to the connection between the vast number of devices that are currently in existence and will come into existence. For example, if your watch is tracking your heart activity and senses a sudden change, a number of different reactions may be triggered – such as sending a warning to you about a potential heart attack, immediately calling emergency responders, alerting a neighbor or a number of other alternatives.

Connected Devices Cultivate Collective Intelligence

As we continue to build these connected devices, we’re building on the internet’s collective intelligence and turning it into a computational master. The increase of IoT devices and data is creating a network that will become as complex and intelligent as billions of billions of neurons.

This super brain will continue to develop on its own (especially with deep learning in the mix) but it will also help us to become flexible in our larger environments and with each other. We can already see this in action now. While the initial purpose of weather sensors was to track changes in weather, the data they collect now affects everything from flight planning to home and farm insurance policies.

The time it has taken for the IoT super brain to get to this point in its evolution is happening at an accelerated rate from that of the human brain. That being said, the human brain is an ongoing and complex process. With the addition of technology discoveries like deep learning, it will be an interesting next few years.


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Stefan Groschupf

Stefan Groschupf

Stefan Groschupf is a big data veteran and serial entrepreneur with strong roots in the open source community. He was one of the very few early contributors to Nutch, the open source project that spun out Hadoop, which 10 years later, is considered a 20 billion dollar business. Open source technologies designed and coded by Stefan can be found running in all 20 of the Fortune 20 companies in the world, and innovative open source technologies like Kafka, Storm, Katta and Spark, all rely on technology Stefan designed more than a half decade ago. In 2003, Groschupf was named one of the most innovative Germans under 30 by Stern Magazine. In 2013, Fast Company named Datameer, one of the most innovative companies in the world. Stefan is currently CEO and Chairman of Datameer, the company he co-founded in 2009 after several years of architecting and implementing distributed big data analytic systems for companies like Apple, EMI Music, Hoffmann La Roche, AT&T, the European Union, and others. After two years in the market, Datameer was commercially deployed in more than 30 percent of the Fortune 20. Stefan is a frequent conference speaker, contributor to industry publications and books, holds patents and is advising a set of startups on product, scale and operations. If not working, Stefan is backpacking, sea kayaking, kite boarding or mountain biking. He lives in San Francisco, California.