Dear Colleagues,

As we all know – the Internet has made a huge impact on how we view the world. However, what is now happening is that the Internet is increasingly playing a part in the physical world and affecting how you view it especially with the rapid growth of mobile technologies. Think of your mobile phone or tablet. Not only can you access people scattered a few oceans away but you can also have localized information at your finger tips.

An ocean of data
If, like most of us, you live in a city, then there is a huge amount of real-time data that is being thrown off from people, buildings, cars, industrial equipment that you can grab through your mobile phone or tablet. With your mobile device, you can grab details on the next bus leaving, the free offers of coffee from the café across the road and a special deal on books from the shop that you are currently striding past.

Digital Information has a huge Influence your Physical world
However (and here is the rub), a lot of the digital information will have a huge influence on how you see the physical world around you. From a restaurant you were planning on going to, but noticed a poor series of ratings (from previous customers), to the location of a friend you were planning on meeting.

However, there is likely to be a somewhat sinister side – standing in front of a monument and being given a version of history that reinforces your bad feelings about a particular culture; may not be such a good thing. Or being provided with reviews on a product which reinforces the reason why you won’t buy. Much of the information you will read will be filtered to suit your likes and dislikes.

Think of the impact of the mobile world on us as Engineering Professionals
Consider the impact on us as engineering professionals; with the following opportunities and threats when accessing your mobile phone in a specific location (in real time):

  • Provision of digital markers (accessed through your phone) using GPS co-ordinates to warn you about digging dangers in your locality for power and water supplies and emergency information (hospitals/police)
  • Consumption of power and water in your location
  • Number of cars crossing a bridge/road and the loading limits
  • Localized weather warnings/lightning activity when on a building site
  • Special deals on engineering supplies/training/education/consulting services – pop-in to pick up your complementary book
  • Recruitment for engineering professionals in a specific area.

Overall; surely it is a good thing to have all the digital world interleaved with the physical world – however, one will have to be wary of the filtering that is already occurring meaning that important information may be hidden from you. Or conversely that you may inundated with too much information.

Thanks to the Economist for an interesting article.

A rather harsh reminder (from Bertrand Russell) of what really happens in the physical world today: The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve