Rise of the MachinesFor a very good overview of the way connected machines will both enhance and bring more risk into our lives, check out “Rise of the Machines,” an hour-long special airing on CNBC Wednesday, September 18th at 9PM ET/PT.

I’ve been helping to cover this topic, variously called the Internet of things, the Industrial Internet, and, my favorite, the thingternet on the Look Ahead blog on the website of The Economist.

One expert interviewed in “Rise of the Machines” claims the changes coming will rival those brought by the industrial revolution itself. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but the Industrial Internet certainly will be transformative.

Everything from healthcare to transportation is on the way to radical transformation as a result of connectivity. Some 50 billion things will be online by 2020. The documentary, reported by Melissa Lee, show’s what’s coming. A lot of it’s coming more quickly than you might think.

The Industrial Internet combines ubiquitous sensor technology with Internet connectivity and massive number crunching (a terabyte a minute generated by just one set of train track sensors, as an example given in the program) to make machines and people more efficient, more productive, safer, and perhaps most to the point to investors in this technology, save governments and corporations money. Some examples given in “Rise of the Machines:”

  • Driverless cars that can talk to each other and share data on a central server have the potential to prevent some of the 34,000 fatalities that occur every year on US roads alone.
  • Nano sensors in your blood vessels could report impending heart attack danger to your smartphone.
  • Sensor networks in Rio de Janeiro have saved lives by alerting residents to flood danger before storms hit.

Much of the risk comes form security vulnerabilities. In a chilling segment of the program, a hacker shows how he can spy on webcams streaming from work places and homes. An analyst discusses the danger to connected municipal utilities. And then there is the enivitable jobs loss due to automation. Driverless car technology, which after all was sparked by DARPA to produce driverless supply convoys, is sure to put truckers out of work.

Still, as with many technologies, the good comes with the bad. In this case, the benefits should outweigh the drawbacks.