Google's Page Dreams of a Bigger Internet of Things
I foresaw single-chip motes adding intelligence to lawn sprinklers and home security systems. I saw radio based identification, or RFID, chips and wireless networking telling whether the yogurt had gone bad, making a shopping list for you. I even foresaw heart and blood monitors quietly anticipating your heart attack, a real "killer app" that could get the paramedics to you before the pain started.
I dreamed too small.
What turns a technology executive into a legend is the size and shape of hisor her dreams. Google (GOOG) CEO Larry Page has some massive ones, as he told Fortune this week.
"There's a tendency for people to think about the things that exist," he told Miguel Helft. "Our job is to think of the thing you haven't thought of yet that you really need."
Here's an example. Google's "driverless car" program, described at Wikipedia only starts with cars. Page is working on the implications.
If wireless networks are ubiquitous, if you have the right software, then self-driving cars can be ordered for you at will, and you could get just enough car for the job -- a small electric for commuting, a larger one for shopping. Everything becomes a Zipcar. Moving people and things becomes an efficient business for the network, the vehicles themselves just clients on that network.
Then consider that cars are just one type of machine humans spend their days fighting to control. With software under network control, all machines can be automated, as the production of things is being automated with 3-D printing. The way we live and work, the jobs we do or have done for us, are about to be transformed in ways we can barely imagine.
I've written before that Google's network is its secret sauce, that in the last 15 years it has become the cheapest way, by far, to do any Internet thing -- move a file, store it, or process a program. Finding profitable work for that network, beyond just feeding ads next to my stories, is Page's job now.
It comes down to one word: software. What can ubiquitous, chip-based intelligence do, under the control of networked software? We tend to think of software in terms of the programs we use each day. Google makes that sort of software. Apps, Chrome, Android, Cloud, and, of course, Google itself. Google is waiting for you to tell it what to do.
But what if Google isn't just waiting for you? What if it's in the machines all around you? What if it's anticipating your needs? What if Google can drive the ambulance to you, and tell the paramedics just what they need to do?