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Internet’s future is one of innovation, connection and caution, says panel

More than 350 attend the Distinguished Speakers Panel event to discuss the Internet of Things

Michael Platt

Gandeephan Ganeshalingam, chief innovation officer with GE Canada (from far left), stands with Dr. Steve Liang, associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering and CEO of SensorUp Inc., Rei Safavi-Naini, director of UCalgary’s Institute for Security, Privacy and Information Assurance and Rick Hu, clinical professor of surgery at the University of Calgary and founder of Vivametrica.

A brave new world under constant measurement, where information is a real-time commodity to make life a whole lot easier, but a lot less private.

That’s the Internet of Things, or IoT, and it’s a vision of the near-future where everything is connected to the Internet, for better and worse – a double-edged reality, and the debate of choice at this year’s Distinguished Speakers Panel, hosted by the Schulich School of Engineering’s Alumni Chapter.

“It’s going to change every aspect of our lives. Think about sensors everywhere, in your shirt, in your mug, on your floors and your lights,” said Dr. Steve Liang, associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering, and CEO of SensorUp Inc.

“It’s going to be everywhere.”

The geomatics instructor acted as moderator at the event, held March 15 at McMahon Stadium’s Red and White Club and attended by an enthusiastic audience of more than 350, made up of industry, academics and members of the general public.

Future habits will be closely monitored

Entitled the Internet of Things, Liang and a panel of experts spoke to the positive, which includes efficiency in business and health care, and they outlined potential pitfalls, which could include private companies and governmental organizations knowing detailed information about your every habit, even how fast you drive to work every day.

Gandeephan Ganeshalingam, chief innovation officer with GE Canada, believes the benefits for society and the business world will be immense.

“The whole digital industrial Internet of Things revolution is not happening in the fringes, it’s marching into the mainstream,” said Ganeshalingam, one of the three expert panelists.

“The benefits for our society are incalculable—it’s enabling innovation, diversification, jobs.”

The audience also heard from Rick Hu, clinical professor of surgery at the University of Calgary and founder of Vivametrica, and Rei Safavi-Naini, director of UCalgary’s Institute for Security, Privacy and Information Assurance.

Great advice from panelists

Their words of caution over providing too much information over the Internet and risking personal privacy struck many audience members as sage advice.

“It’s good to have both perspectives, and to hear about all the innovations, but also to hear about the security issues,” said Sam Sajedy, a third-year chemical engineering student at Schulich.

“It makes you reconsider how much technology you want or need in your personal life – if I don’t have my phone with me, I feel lost and it’s terrifying to think how dependent I’ve become on this thing.”

Others, like Daniela Vespa,  an associate producer with Business on Camera, said the possibilities of the Internet of Things outweighed concerns over giving up too much data, though caution is a must.

 “I’m not concerned, but I think it means everything in moderation, and the onus is on us to be careful, and everything has the right time for the right purpose,” she said.

“I was blown away by the massive amounts of information we learned tonight – technology is growing at an exponential rate and where we are heading in the next five or ten years is fantastic.”