New Horizons: IoT

Six years ago, Borowicz (2014) pointed out that the internet of things was already here. One of his examples was connecting Spotify to your car in order to listen to music (Borowicz, 2014). This is something I have done many, many times, and I never once stopped to consider that the futuristic world of the internet of things had already arrived. 

Borowicz (2014) writes that we pay too much attention to the “things” part of the internet of things, when we should be thinking of the data. Higginbotham (2014) writes that “the internet of things is a tool for cheaply delivering and gathering information” (Para. 2). What is exciting is not the things, but when the information gathered from different networks of things starts being used in innovative ways. 

Another example from Borowicz (2014): a smart city project connects traffic lights to each other to monitor traffic conditions and adjust themselves for better traffic flow. That is what the OCLC (2015) calls an “island” of information; the traffic lights are connected to each other, and they provide information for the city. It’s a local, isolated internet of things. My car and my phone form an even smaller, even more isolated internet of things, which only results in my being able to listen to Spotify through my car’s sound system as I drive (although to be fair, Google or Spotify is probably selling data about my music choices). The internet of things is here, but the islands aren’t connected yet, or at least, not as connected as they could be. 

Borwicz (2014) suggests that the smart traffic lights’ island of information could be connected with Google. This could give Google Maps the data to make its traffic predictions more accurate (Borowicz, 2014). Maybe that doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s only one example. The more the islands connect, the more benefits there will be to the user. 

Google Maps can be used as an interactive map that can track a user’s phone’s movement and give directions as the user drives (or walks). An interactive map, connected to the data being produced by other devices, could do so many things. The question is, as libraries adopt this technology, what kinds of partnerships can they make so that their users will benefit? An interactive map of the library? Could Google Maps (or something similar) take you to exactly the library book you are looking for, down to where it is on the shelf, and then bring up information about it supplied by a librarian (or a scholar, author, etc.)? It definitely could. In fact, I found that these two ideas (smart books, advanced book tracking) are pretty common when it comes to people imagining how the internet of things will help libraries. See Purnik (2019), for example.

It’s interesting to think of how all this connection could bring  library services “outside the building,” as Ken Varnum puts it (OCLC, 2015, p. 8). Libraries will need to be assertive about getting their services out into the world, to be connected to other things, and people, in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet.

This is unrelated to the rest of this post, but the article about children growing up with Alexa (Kelly, 2018) made me think of this clip from Terminator 2:


Borowicz, W. (2014). Why the internet of things narrative has to change. Retrieved from

Christen, J. (2012, Decemer 20). Terminator 2 – father figure [YouTube video]. Retrieved from

Higginbotham, S. (2014). The internet of things isn’t about things. It’s about cheap data [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Kelly, S. M. (2018). Growing up with Alexa: A child’s relationship with Amazon’s voice assistant. Retrieved from

Online Computer Library Center. (2015). Libraries & the internet of things. NextSpace: The OCLC Newsletter, 24, 4-9. Retrieved from

Purnik, A. (2019). The internet of things serving libraries. Retrieved from

3 thoughts on “New Horizons: IoT

  1. Oh wow – the T2 clip was amazing. It so resonated after reading your post. 🙂

    You made a good point about IoT being a series of islands. I get that – from all my Apple Home stuff to Alexa to what my car does for me when I connect my phone. What will it be like when it all comes together.

    I am reminded of a series on HBO called “Years and Years.”

    • @michael I started reading some of the plots of early “Years and Years” episodes on Wikipedia (because I was too lazy to actually start the show). Here’s a quote that jumped out at me: “Bethany is fitted with a brain implant which enables her to interact directly with the Internet, but also to spy on her family.” Yikes. I can see why you thought of it. Speaking of course-related entertainment, I started listening to S-Town after reading about it in “Gifts of this Hour,” and wow. What an amazing podcast. If you haven’t looked up pictures, I recommend it:

      • @philmcg I so appreciated Y&Y because of the way they explored where tech might go. I am thrilled you listen to S-Town. I still remember those days in late March 2017 I walked and walked because I couldn’t stop listening. That is an excellent collection of pics.

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