The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the enormous wave of sensor and actuator devices becoming manifest on the Internet, each with its own address that allows its sensor(s) to be read and/or its actuator(s) controlled via other devices, including but not limited to those providing human-computer interfaces.
IBM is working with OASIS to promulgate a standard for communications with and between IoT devices. The connection to health IT may not be intuitively obvious, but this trend is important. Standards-based technologies are what drive the Internet and the World Wide Web, not to mention just about all information and telecommunications technologies.
Some pundits disagree with the need for standards, for example Kishore Swaminathan of Accenture, mostly based on the premise that device inter-communications will be highly specialized and conducted over proprietary networks. I can only say that I heard such arguments in the 1980's with respect to electronic mail and social online environments like Compuserve and America Online.
Network effects put paid to proprietary email and online service protocols. Critical mass is immensely powerful as a driver of societal and technological evolution.
What will the IoT mean for the world of healthcare? Ubiquitous monitoring of vital signs is just one example of how the IoT will be of benefit to healthcare providers and patients.
For decades, computing devices have been the machine equivalent of Helen Keller, with an extremely limited amount of sensory input from the real world. That is changing rapidly. Individually and in distributed configurations with a facade of individuation, computers are beginning to access the same sources of real-world experience that are available to us real human beings.
I have long been skeptical of the concept of the Technological Singularity promoted by Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, in which machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, but thinking back to Helen Keller's sudden transformative leap in comprehension gives me pause. It is no longer unthinkable that at some point, our thus-far-unintelligent machines will be capable of independent learning. Given their tirelessness and access to vast quantities of data, a singularity event no longer seems out of the question.
Does that mean I believe that machines could render their human progenitors irrelevant? No. Is my mind open to the possibility? Reluctantly but definitely. Were it to come to pass, would I want to live to see the day? Likely not.