AT Warners Bay this morning, the federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher, will launch the roll-out of a new digital technology for Lake Macquarie that the council and its commercial partners say will allow the region to become part of the increasingly important Internet of Things.
At face value, it’s an important announcement. In the same way that the Internet itself has revolutionised life in so many ways, the Internet of Things is generally described by those who know about it as the next big step in the digitisation of our lives.
In it, a seemingly endless range of presently isolated and manual systems will become automated and integrated into one vast network. In the same way that the development of the smart phone gave rise to a myriad of applications that were almost beyond imagination before the devices themselves were available, so the Internet of Things is predicted to give rise to a whole new range of technologies that will transform even more of our lives than have been changed so far.
As the global take up of the mobile phone has shown, people are generally ready to embrace this sort of change, even though it sometimes brings with it new fears and concerns. The fear of potential health impacts from mobile phone towers is the obvious example.
Despite a clean bill of health from the authorities, people still worry about the non-ionising radio waves that are utilised in mobile phones. Indeed, as we are reporting today, some residents are concerned about plans for an Optus telecommunications tower on Lake council land about 500 metres from where Mr Fletcher is attending today’s Internet of Things launch.
Although protests against mobile phone towers are not as frequent as they were, Lake council – or any other authority installing an Internet of Things network – needs to ensure it brings the population along with it. As far as the Optus tower is concerned, the council says it will abide by the relevant standards.
But the Internet of Things is so new that the spectrum it uses is apparently unregulated. On the other hand, the potential for its use seems unlimited. Both Newcastle and Lake councils have been early movers in promoting this new type of technology. Hopefully their embrace of the concept will help attract the business opportunities the network operator is promising.