The exchange and sharing of information between various types of devices is also referred to as machine-to-machine communication. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines machine2machine communication as: ‘devices that are actively communicating using wired and wireless networks, that are not computers in the traditional sense and are using internet in some form of another’. An increasing diversity in ‘machines’ in our society is independently able to communicate with other machines via wireless connections and the internet, among other things, and to exchange and share information about for example location, time, temperature or speed. Machine2machine communication offers an increasing number of more innovative possibilities which will significantly change our daily life and work in the coming years.
An example of machine2machine communication is the European eCall system that is already present in my French-made car. This eCall system is a component of the European programme to develop intelligent transport systems and also forms an elaboration of the European Digital Agenda. When a serious incident occurs such as a crash – which is registered by for example an airbag - eCall generates an automatic call from the vehicle to an emergency assistance centre (for example 112). Irrespective of where the incident has taken place in Europe, the location of the incident can be automatically determined with the assistance of satellites and location of the SIM card in the vehicle. This automatically determined position is sent to the local emergency assistance centre with the call, where information such as the direction of the vehicle and the type of car is added to the position of the vehicle. The emergency assistance centre recognises the urgency of the eCall and can immediately locate the incident on a (digital) map based on the information supplied. On the basis of the call and the information provided, the emergency assistance centre will initially attempt to make contact with those inside the vehicle. If unsuccessful, the emergency assistance centre will send assistance to the location of the incident.
With eCall, European commissioner Neelie Kroes hopes to save hundreds of lives in Europe and ease the pain and suffering of crash victims. According to the recommendation of the Committee (2011/750/EU) which was signed by commissioner Kroes on 8 September 2011, supplying additional information in the future is also considered, for example about the nature of the load (e.g. dangerous substances) or the number of people in the vehicle.
In his blog (http://oecdinsights.org/2012/01/31/the-internet-of-things/), Rudolf van den Berg of the OECD points out not only the positive societal effects but also the potentially negative impact of these developments: ‘Combining data generated by M2M devices may offer insights to improve society. Cars could notify local governments of icy roads or bottlenecks in infrastructures. This may not always be seen as positive, however, as shown by a case in the Netherlands where anonymous and aggregated data from GPS systems was used by the police to identify prime locations for speed cameras, which led to a public outcry.’
Slowly but surely we are moving towards a mutually strongly connected world where people increasingly communicate and work together with autonomous objects in networks. In these networks, on the basis of available connections and information, new and still unknown applications will naturally arise and be applied. New applications will in turn again demand their own role in the existing network.
In my opinion a strongly connected world requires new and more holistic approaches where the individual, the individual object or the individual organisation are no longer central. Such a mutually strongly connected world needs an approach which comes from the whole or the system in which people and machines are connected to each other. In a system approach, in contrast to traditional approaches, attention needs to be paid to the mutual connections between the separate components in the network or system and the information which is exchanged and shared between the separate components. After all, the connections and information are more and more the components that make the whole that is experienced by us as people as a whole or system.