Naming the Internet of Things

Apparently, what used to be known as Ubiquitous Computing, as defined by the late Mark Weiser, has hit a major semantic blizzard.

The technology to make Ubiquitous Computing happen is finally getting somewhere, with RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) chips that look set to replace barcodes, and generally make objects carry information in a completely new way. There’s even talk of putting these tiny chips in the new Euro notes to make them traceable.

And as the technology is gaining momentum in technologist hype machines in blogs and keynotes around the world, design and computer trend researchers are all up in arms trying to find new ways to talk about it. See, UbiComp is just all kinds of unsexy, and new words are needed, stat.

And science fiction writer Bruce Sterling argues, the way that these neologisms are coined and used is central to our understanding of the potential of this technology. In a recent keynote, he lists just some of all the new terms that are currently flourishing.

Techno-anthropologist of sorts and expert in these ways, Anne Galloway, have begun compiling a bibliography of The Internet of Things which is well worth checking out.

As far as I can see, these theoretical discussions usually have little influence on the name under which new technology is eventually known. It seems that it is the hackers who develop these things, that usually get to pick the names – such as Google, Flickr, Wiki or Blog – words that really don’t seem to signify anything else. Maybe that’s the reason Sterling’s own Spime might succeed in the end.

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