The Era of Sentient Things

Different lines of research and development that have progressed slowly for decades are accelerating now because sufficient computation and communication capabilities recently became affordable. These projects originated in different fields but are converging on the same boundary between artificial and natural worlds. The vectors of this research include:

Information and communication technologies are invading the physical world, a trend that hasn't even begun to climb the hockey stick growth curve. Shards of sentient silicon will be inside boxtops and dashboards, pens, street corners, bus stops, money, most things that are manufactured or built, within the next ten years. These technologies are "sentient" not because embedded chips can reason, but because they can sense, receive, store, and transmit information. Some of these cheap chips sense where they are: the cost of a global positioning system chip capable of tracking its location via satellite to accuracy of ten to fifteen meters is around $15 and dropping.

Watch smart mobs emerge when millions of people use location-aware mobile communication devices in computation-pervaded environments. Things we hold in our hands are already speaking to things in the world. Using our telephones as remote controls is only the beginning. At the same time that the environment is growing more sentient, the device in your hand is evolving from portable to wearable. A new media sphere is emerging from this process, one that could become at least as influential, lucrative, and ubiquitous as previous media spheres opened by print, telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, and the wired Internet.