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“Things have been slowly getting smart and connected,” says Hong.

Now cars, toys, billboards, stuffed animals, appliances and lights are online. Farmers can attach devices to their animals to track the health of herds.

The technology to put ordinary objects online has been around for a long time, he adds. “Now the cost is quite low.”In 2008, society reached an important milestone.

The number of devices connected to the internet grew to outnumber the human population. There, she develops software for smart devices.“Some people like to use these tools and just be amazed by the magic,” she says. Accelerometers measure how fast an object speeds up or slows down. They can detect collisions and inflate airbags or lock seat belts.) In a basketball, the information from these sensors helps the software calculate how quickly the ball moved, and where. “Some have microphones, some have cameras, some have GPS sensors,” says Ebling.

The touch screen on a phone, computer or other device (even a voice command) may be all it takes to control appliances, medical devices, a thermostat or more. This phone then uses an app to analyze a player’s game.

A wide variety of such products and processes are already part of the growing Internet of Things. You can inflate, dribble, pass, shoot, swoosh and slam-dunk it. During play, the ball records how hard and fast a person dribbles and throws. Then the app offers tips for better ball handling or for improving three-point shots.

Weiser didn’t describe his vision as the “Internet of Things.” He used the phrase “ubiquitous computing.” (The word refers to something that is found everywhere.) But the two terms essentially mean the same thing.

He imagined a world where anything could be turned into a computer.

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Since then, as technology has improved and spread, more objects have gone online.

(The second part of this two-part series addresses security risks posed by the Internet of Things.)Object by object, for better or worse, the world is becoming ever more connected. Computer scientists have been laying the groundwork for a connected world for decades.

The first object on the internet was a Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon in the early 1980s.

One may measure temperature, another measure the lighting, and another track whether anyone is home.

A smart house can observe the people who live there and change itself to be safer, more energy efficient and more comfortable.

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