A flow chart from Tim Berners-Lee's original "Information Management: A Proposal" that laid the groundwork for the World Wide Web.
David Becker/Getty Images
Years ago, futurists imagined a world where everything was connected to the Internet. The idea has sputtered forward since it was first conceived. But if this year's annual International Consumer Electronics Show tells us anything, it's that the so-called Internet of Things is here in full force. At this year's show, dozens of vendors unveiled a range of gadgets that can be controlled via websites or smartphone apps or both. Think toothbrushes, dog collars, smoke alarms, crockpots and automobiles. Here we look at a few of our favorites.
Sony CEO Kunimasa Suzuki displays the company's latest fitness band, the Core. Just about everyone and their uncle is jumping into fitness band craze. The wearable bands have sensors that track a runner's or walker's steps, monitor pulse rate and even a person's sleep. Although many showed up at CES without the corresponding smartphone app, they're coming and consumers will soon be able to chose a fitness band especially for them.
Each FootLogger insole from 3L Labs has eight pressure sensors and an accelerometer that turns any shoe into a health monitor. Wearers can track their fitness activity as well as stride -- a metric that could come in handy for older folks with walking issues.
This interactive cooktop from Whirlpool turns a kitchen surface into a stovetop. The Internet connection allows any cook to find recipes, look up cooking tips and post photos of the final dish on social networking sites.
Belkin introduced its Crock-Pot WeMo Slow Cooker, which allows users to control and monitor cooking times and temperatures via a smartphone.
Nest Labs, who released a thermostat in 2011, introduced the Smoke + Carbon Monoxide detector. This alarm gives talking alerts, illuminates hallways and delivers notifications to smartphones or tablets. Other companies including Honeywell and Allure Energy, showed off voice-activated Internet-connected thermostats.
The Kolibree toothbrush has a sensor that detects how much tartar is being removed and records brushing activity so users can maintain a consistent cleaning each time. Because like all of these products, it connects to the Internet, it's able to convey brushing information to a smartphone app. That could be good for parents who want to monitor their kids' teeth cleaning efforts.
Several carmakers including Audi, Chevrolet, GM and more are joining Ford by embedding high-speed, wireless 4G technology into their cars. Audi and Chevrolet specifically are teaming up with AT&T to offer onboard Internet connectivity. Passengers can access video, radio, news and social media over the car's built-in Wi-Fi connection.
Parrot, who showed off their AR.Drone at CES back in 2010, this year presented the MiniDrone, which comes with clip-on wheels that allow it to drive as well as fly. The wheels also protect it if it bumps into furniture. Users control it via an app through Bluetooth Low Energy instead of Wi-Fi.
Orbotix already has fun app-controlled balls, but their latest Sphero 2B is upping the ante. The tubular robot has interchangeable wheels, tires and hubcaps designed for rumbling up to 10 miles per hour over a variety of terrain.
The Voyce dog collar is a fitness tracker for your furry friend. An accelerometer tracks Fido's activity and inactivity, calculating calories burned. It also uses a built-in radio frequency device to measure heart rate and respiration. Owners can upload data about their pet's health to a website or share it with vets or on social networking websites.
The Babolat Play is the world's first connected tennis racquet. Sensors on the handle collect information about the player's swing, power, endurance, technique and ball impact and then send it to an app. Players can use those data points to adjust their play and improve their skill.
There was a time before the Internet when messages were sent through the ‘post’ inside a rudimentary technology known as an ‘envelope,’ cats were safe from international ridicule and social media meant sitting in a coffee shop with a friend discussing a newspaper’s headlines.
For those of you who are old enough to remember those dark, unconnected days, you may remember the sound your computer’s first screaming modem with a pang of nostalgia, as it took an eternity to suck a two-line electronic-mail (a.k.a. “email”) through the telephone lines.
So today, it’s time to celebrate one component of the Internet that has crept its way into almost every facet of our daily lives: the World Wide Web.
In March 1989, a scientist working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland, proposed an idea for sharing information between experiments via something called “hypertext” — a computer software language. Little did Tim Berners-Lee realize that he was about to start a revolution in how the world works, communicates and plays.
His now-historic document was titled “Information Management: A Proposal,” and it was an “attempt to persuade CERN management that a global hypertext system was in CERN’s interests,” writes Berners-Lee in an archive page maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization (co-led by Berners-Lee himself) committed to maintaining web standards. “Note that the only name I had for it at this time was ‘Mesh’ — I decided on ‘World Wide Web’ when writing the code in 1990.”
As the coding behind the World Wide Web protocols became more sophisticated, CERN released the basic World Wide Web software via an open license into the public domain where it was allowed to be developed and to flourish. The intent was to make the software as open as possible to maximize its dissemination.
“Beyond CERN’s role in helping us understand the universe, it was a great place to work in 1989,” said Tim Berners-Lee in a CERN news release on Wednesday. “CERN was an early adopter of Internet protocols, and their support for a Royalty-Free Web has been a key to its widespread adoption today.”
As noted by The Economist, it took just 7 years for “the web” to be used by a quarter of the American public after it was made commercially available in 1991. When compared with other technologies, that statistic is startling. It took 46 years for electricity to be used by a quarter of the American public after it became available on the commercial market in 1873; 31 years for the radio; 26 years for the television; and 13 years for the mobile phone. The Internet and, by extension, the web, is a transformative technology that has found its way into almost every device, ensuring we all remain connected 24/7, making “The Internet Of Things” a rapidly-growing phenomenon.
So the next time you’re giggling over pictures of Lolcats on your uber-powerful smartphone, remember that the technology is based on a physicist’s desire to distribute information fast and efficiently between the particle collider experiments managed at CERN and it’s success was down to the open access CERN allowed.