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Connecting Everyone with Everything

Mobile devices and Internet access are in such plentiful supply in Hong Kong that most of us can hardly imagine what it is like to be living without either. But no matter how village-like the globe has become, there are still unconnected territories. It is estimated that about two thirds of the world's population are still offline. In India, for example, only 15% of the population has access to the Internet, compared to about 75% in more developed countries.

Many Internet giants are pushing the frontiers of Internet coverage. Google aims to send balloons high up in the stratosphere to beam WiFi down to remote areas. Facebook plans to use a combination of drones and satellites to provide Internet service to regions beyond the reach of conventional mobile infrastructure. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of Facebook, 'Our mission is to connect every person in the world.'

Not only are people connected to other people but they are increasingly wired up to various gadgets in their environment, if only for that incremental comfort or convenience. It is no longer unthinkable to programme the air-conditioner in your living room so that it automatically turns on once you are within a certain distance from home. Or your smart umbrella can turn colour upon receiving the rain message from the observatory and remind you to bring it along. In the US, a microchip inside a pill can be activated by stomach acids and send a signal to the doctor's computer indicating the patient's compliance with the prescription.

In IT circles, this is known as the IoT (Internet of Things). Jeremy Rifkin says:

People, machines, natural resources,…consumption habits,…and virtually every other aspect of economic and social life will be linked via sensors and software to the IoT platform, continually feeding Big Data to every node—businesses, homes, vehicles—moment to moment, in real time.

Mobile and wearable devices are re-creating modern living, and possibly the modern campus too. Imagine how easy a lecturer can manage his class if all the students are in his/her GPS. Taking attendance would become superfluous. The lecturer would have godlike omniscience of who's in the lecture theatre, who's taken sick leave, who's still in the dormitory, or the cafeteria nearby. With more advanced eyeball or brainwave sensing technologies, he/she could even be on top of the ongoing attention level in the theatre.


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