Ah, the collective network that, through your refrigerator, won't let you buy meat or buy omega-3 oils, or reports you for avoiding carbohydrate and omega-6 oils .... I have yet to conclude whether the M2M will impede or promote individual health ... will the technology maximize nutritional quality or, alternatively, maximize demand for pharmaceuticals?
Dr. Calvin Brazil
Richard, your arguments are rational, and in the cases you cite the situation might have turned out better without a computer in the loop. However, consider this: you state a hazardous condition with special cases, and then postulate that in that case, having a human being in control would work better. I agree: if the said human was paying attention, competent, and could be relied upon to take the correct action. This isn't the general case--how many people do you see yabbering on their cell phone or waving their hands while driving? I think that, on the average, a computer in the loop is more valuable than relying on a person, late to work, holding coffee, doing her makeup, etc... suddenly becoming a first class driver. That's my disagreement with you: not that your analysis is incorrect, but that on the average, I think that a computer does better. In the case of the Air France crash, however, I make two points: (1) nose down to avoid a stall is always a good idea, especially near the ground. In that case, your options are to hit the ground under control, or out of control. I opt for nose down, under control. (2) The control system was probably not tested all that well for low-altitude, low speed passes over the runway for air shows. That's not a great excuse, however.
The Volvo S60 does already employ a system that detects pedestrians, and even more frightening to me, will apply the brakes during an "impending" collision. I for one would be terrified that control of the vehicle was taken out of the drivers hands, which in fact could pose a danger in itself, depending on the situation. What if during icy, high traffic conditions a swerve is safer than applying full braking force, which could result in a pile up? During situations such as this, the driver needs to be in control to make decisions in a dynamic environment that goes beyond "see obstacle, apply brakes." Case in point, the Air France 296 crash at the air show with Airbus's first Fly-by-Wire system, the pilot was trying the throttle up but the plane's override automatically pushed the nose down to prevent a stall, which at that low altitude proved to be a disaster. In that case the plane did not know better than the pilot, and the resulting forced takeover of control was unfortunate loss of human life.
Well, I think there is room for fine-grain control... particularly in industrial situations. I don't know that the savings would be earth-shaking, but then, once the control infrastructure is in place, the cost of obtaining the synchronization would be minor. On the home front, you are correct: the power companies rely on statistical averaging. The big events are hard for them to control: you mention TV shows, but I am thinking of a big high pressure cell over an area, when every single air conditioner in the area starts to cycle on and off, whether or not anyone is at home. Many people don't have even basic scheduling thermostats...
May I ask if you power bill includes heating? People in the US are usually one of these: oil, natural gas, or electric. In the northeast, oil now costs $3.50/gallon. One of my relatives uses 800 gallons per heating season. I don't know how they do it.
Maybe the most sophisticated network of things is telecoms and datacomms. Underpinning the internet and keeping all those cellphones connected as they move between cells works because there are international, agreed, open protocols. No-one tries to go it alone in that game!
The lessons learned there are not necessarily being passed on to industrial control or domestic networking. There is just a bear pit of competing stuff that will pretend to work for a few years until it is decided that these systems are too important, they really have to work, and then utilities will be created or move in and standardize it all properly.
The romance of the Wild West rather hides what a bleak place it was before Law and Order moved in. Just look at Iraq or Afghanistan to see what happens when the bad guys get their way.
@Bob and @Kris - I was thinking along the lines of finer-grained industrial control, talking to the machine allows cooperative scheduling between on/off thermostat cycles. Many industrial heating installations use a lot of power over the day with a sluggish response and can wait for a slot on a minute-to-minute basis.
Probably improved PFC will provide more economies as more modern machinery are installed.
Domestic electricity is just a sort of chaos which averages out demand statistically except when people's activities get synchronised by TV shows; but internet usage is blurring that which helps.
BTW Our UK domestic power bill is $300 monthly (winter). It just went up 40% in 2yrs.
Machines talk to each other all the time, everywhere. The HVAC system I hear operating in my office, for example, has all manner of machines talking to each other, and no one gives that a second thought.
Some machines are already watching our every move. They deliberately prevent me from navigating to certain parts of the office intranet, for instance. Or during a fire alarm they prevent me from going through certain doors. Or while driving, they prevent me from locking my brakes during a panic stop.
In some airports, machines run local trains with no human operator. In power plants, machines monitor the plant and automatically go through different procedures, with no human intervention, to adjust to changing conditions. Even automatic shutdown, but that's only the extreme cases the press likes to write about.
Attibuting self awareness or free will to machines is premature, perhaps, but I'm not sure I understand how so many people, especially engineers(!), can have missed that M to M communications has been with us for a really, really long time.
Patrick, they'll shortly be telling us to go to bed, and not to watch TV too late. In a worst case scenario, we will become the mice in the wainscoting. Have a read (if you can find him) of William Tenn.
Iniewski, no, of course not--at least no more than you expect someone living 24 miles from the city he works in to wait for a bus. ;-) No... many jobs can't be done over the 'net. But many more can than are in fact telecommuted. Here's my take: some people can drive an electric hybrid: I can't. So both heavy fuel users and light fuel users will continue to exist. Some people can work from home; others can't, but a lot of improvement is possible there. Many people can use public trans, for some of us it's hopeless. In each of these domains, there's no "one size fits all." But much improvement is possible, as long as the partisans of public trans don't get too busy banning cars from their cities...
Patrick, they already do...there is a number of videos on teh Internet showing how machines talk to each other...this is very primitive for now, but actually highly entertaining...I agree, it will get fascinating in the future...Kris