Toward an Open Web (of Things)

By on November 23rd, 2021 in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Editorial & Opinion, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

Thirty years of untamed growth of the World Wide Web have contributed to a sprawl of communication platforms and web applications that are generating tons of data. Yet, no rules about its usage and storage exist. As a result, the Web has entered an unfair culture where big tech companies offer free applications in exchange for the right to sell our user-generated content. This imbalance has led to several data scandals that have shown how these companies can exercise economic and political control on our society.

In the near future, the mobility of our devices (e.g., smartphones) combined with machine-learning algorithms and content from all kinds of Internet of Things devices will make our surroundings adapt to our needs. Such evolution will expose information about our living environment and our interactions within, which will make us even more trackable, easier to label, and targetable.

The future Web should prevent a further imbalance and work toward more fairness.

Therefore, the future Web should prevent a further imbalance and work toward more fairness. In such a web, users should be able to choose where to store their data. independent of the applications they use on top of that data. This is something the socially linked data (SOLID) project by Tim Berners-Lee tries to rectify with the use of a personal data store (POD) [1]. A POD offers an ecosystem to store all kinds of personal information in a standardized format. This way, data from any person, machine, sensor, animal, and so on can be connected to any other piece of data by anyone with the correct access rights.

Not only will users have full control over systems that are a part of their lives, but also data from any source will be integrable in any platform. This way, innovations are not set aside to those with access to data. Moreover, in an ecosystem with standardized data formats, machines will be able to crawl the web like a global database, interlinking data from different data sources, thereby able to solve unasked questions. In short, the use of a distributed system to store and link data, such as SOLID, can have a considerable impact on the way we interact with the web. However, it will only succeed if not only technical, but also human barriers are overcome.

Author Information

Bart Moons is currently pursuing the Ph.D. degree with the Internet and Data Laboratory Research Group, Department of Information Technology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
His research interests include the Internet of Things, heterogeneous wireless networks, the Web of Things, and standard-based networking in the Internet of Things.


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