The hunt for a missing Malaysian Flight 370 Boeing BA+1.15% 777 has transfixed the world for more than a week. For an aircraft of this size and sophistication to utterly vanish is unprecedented in the history of modern aviation. With little for investigators to work with, perhaps the most important piece of information hinting that this was no accident, but a deliberate act by someone on the plane, was provided by an aircraft data transmission system that is a nascent form of the Internet of Things (IoT). Indeed, this incident would be a 21st Century version of the Amelia Earhart mystery had it not been for automated systems designed to regularly send data from the plane via either ground stations or satellite uplinks, known in the aircraft business as ACARS.
The Malaysian Airlines incident, with investigators forced to rely on remotely collected data in lieu of actual physical evidence, highlights the varied uses, both intended and opportunistic, of telemetry that will be routinely collected and communicated from devices as small as your shoes and as large as aircraft and ocean liners and illustrates both the potential and unexpected consequences of the coming era of pervasive connectedness. Indeed, there is a lot more to IoT than fitness bands and smart smoke detectors.