The Web evolves. Everything is being tracked. Data and real world objects are linked together and the web is the medium where all this happens – so the (perhaps not so far) vision.
Nova Spivack discusses this in his article ‘From World Wide Web to Web Wide World — The Web Breaks Out of its Petri Dish’.
And a European Union Conference starting 6th of October 2008 entitled “Internet of Things – Internet of the Future“ is also focussing on this issue: ‘The Internet is at a crossroads of its evolution. Mobile internet and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), among other key technologies, will soon allow the creation of an « Internet of objects » whose services will weave themselves into users’ daily life. Tomorrow’s Internet services will expand to various fields like health, education, proximity services and energy management.’
Currently the EU has launched a Consultation on the early challenges regarding the “Internet of Things”: ‘The context of this consultation is the preparation of a Communication from the European Commission on the Internet of Things (IoT), planned for the second quarter of 2009. … The Communication on the Internet of Things will propose a policy approach addressing the whole range of political and technological issues related to the move from RFID and sensing technologies to the Internet of Things. It will focus especially on architectures, control of critical infrastructures, emerging applications, security, privacy and data protection, spectrum management, regulations and standards, broader socio-economic aspects.’
In a Working Paper of the EU Commission is explained with some instructive examples what IoT could mean: ‘The phrase “Internet of Things” heralds a vision of the future Internet1 where connecting physical things, from banknotes to bicycles, through a network will let them take an active part in the Internet, exchanging information about themselves and their surroundings. This will give immediate access to information about the physical world and the objects in it – leading to innovative services and gains in efficiency and productivity.’
What could this mean for statistical information?
First of all changes in data collection (‘i.e.: ‘The Internet of Things will have a profound effect on the way traffic, weather, particles in the air, water pollution, and the environment can be monitored and statistics collected.’ Working Paper of the EU Commission, p. 5).
But also (and much more difficult to anticipate) changes for dissemination of information. Semantic Web is often seen as a system of linked data (not documents). Every object gets its URI (its unique adress) and is described with a set of specific properties (i.e. RDF triples).
So in a world of described objects (data or also real world objects), search engines can bring together objects with common properties and open new dimensions of information and knowledge.
In theory (and perhaps in a distant future) objects in the real world can be linked with a lot of other objects, one of them (object-specific) statistical data.
To think about!