Connected future

A planetary panopticon

For better or worse, the IoT will bring the business models that run the internet into the rest of the world

IN JULY THE Bank of England announced that its new £50 note would carry a picture of Alan Turing, a British mathematician widely regarded as the intellectual father of computer science. Along with excerpts from a seminal paper in 1936 and a binary representation of his date of birth, the new note contains a quotation from 1949, when only a handful of computers existed in the world. “This is only a foretaste of what is to come,” it begins.

Turing’s remark remains true today. Computers have already changed the world in ways that their inventors could never have imagined. Turing could no more have predicted Instagram celebrities and high-frequency trading than Karl Benz, an automotive pioneer, could have predicted suburbs and strip malls. And that is in a world with tens of billions of computers. If predictions about the IoT are correct, that number could rise a hundred-fold.

Clues about what is to come can be glimpsed in changes that have already happened. In the quarter of a century since the internet first became a consumer phenomenon, it has upended…