By Mark A. Ollig
This last column of 2014 brings to a close a year filled with a variety of tech stories from the past to the present, along with predictions for the future.
From smart robots, to celebrating the Web’s 25th birthday, this year has definitely provided us with much high-tech content.
This year’s demographics show more individuals, organizations, and businesses using online social media for messaging, advertising, commerce, and for following and commenting on news stories.
Another popular use of social media, specifically Twitter, is attracting public attention to a specific cause or message by using hashtags.
In February, we learned the Internet will not only be used by humans, but also by autonomous robots who will “tap” into it, in order to find answers for completing tasks.
Robots of the future may be accessing a “Wikipedia for robots” Internet database of knowledge and information contributed to by other robots.
New concerns about the safety of our private information stored in computer systems on the Internet have been in the news recently, especially since the much-publicized computer cyber-attack (hacking) of Sony’s computer system.
“How comfortable are we with having our online social activities, much of our communications, personal information, and work data, being managed and stored within the Internet?” I wrote this past May.
No longer are we keeping our business and personal data stored offline on devices not connected to the Internet as was done during the 1980s, when people were using “stand-alone” computers, external hard drives, magnetic tapes, and floppy disks.
How times have changed.
Today, our online public “digital footprint” resides throughout the Internet.
In fact, the whole personal information dynamic has changed since the Web came into being.
We trusted our online data was being seen only by those whom we chose to see it.
The necessity to push our personal information online, in order to make it accessible to the companies, government agencies, and organizations we do business with, has created a false sense of security for us.
This year, we have realized our online data is not 100 percent safe, making it a worrisome time for those of us who do online shopping.
We have been witness to, and some of us may have been victims of, having our personal credit information compromised via cyber-attacks of the computer systems owned by retailers such as Target, Staples, Home Depot, and Michaels.
This year has been our “wake-up call” to the reality that our online information can be stolen – in spite of any assurances of it being secured, protected, and encrypted.
One way to bypass Internet firewall security, and gain access to information stored on a specific computer system, is for a cyber-attacker to obtain an administrator’s username and password.
My advice for us is to keep changing our passwords on a regular basis.
Granted, no online computer system is totally foolproof; however, with the increased number of computer breaches being reported, 2015 needs to be the year the computing community seriously addresses the issue of cybersecurity.
This year, we also learned about IoT (Internet of Things).
The idea of having most devices (Things) connected, monitored, and controlled over the Internet, is creating a lot of excitement . . . and concern.
From transportation networks, manufacturer’s plant machinery, energy power grids, cars, refrigerators, to wearable wrist devices - even our coffee makers, will probably have an Internet-linked smart computing chip embedded inside of them.
And yes, I know some of you are thinking: “Computer chips will eventually be implanted in people.” This subject will eventually become the center of much debate and discussion.
If IoT actually comes to fruition, we could have millions, if not trillions, of devices providing information and communicating not only with us, but with other devices connected to the Internet.
Each of these devices will have their own unique Internet address; most likely using the nearly inexhaustible IPv6 addressing system.
Having much of the world’s electronic devices globally-interconnected and communicating with each other, will create a massive amount of information needing to be logically organized, evaluated, and distributed.
It has been suggested utilizing everyday devices to operate over the Internet will increase industrial and commercial sector efficiencies, and assist in improving the overall social, economic, and environmental conditions for all of us.
I sense a groundbreaking paradigm shift occurring in how we will be using the Internet of Things; this should be more clearly revealed to us in 2015.
This past year, we looked back at some history, learned about new electronic devices and technology, and of course, the Internet.
We covered many interesting topics which sometimes provided u,s with more questions than answers.
Much of the technology we explored this year will serve as the springboard for some very exciting surprises during the New Year.
In future columns, I plan to continue writing about the Internet and the latest technology news, along with assorted technologies from the past, and how they influence our way of life.
Let’s continue to study, contemplate, question, and even occasionally become awestruck, as we follow technology’s journey into 2015.
2014 Bits & Bytes columns: