What comes after the IoT? The age of the Tactile Internet

September 25, 2017


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The IoT era has brought us many great things, but it is time to go beyond to improve human presence in an interactive future: the age of the Tactile Internet.

While the IoT opened up many doors for automation with a wide array of internet-enabled gadgets, the Tactile Internet aims to reclaim and increase human presence with robotics and state-of-the-art remote technology.

iot tactile internet

Gerhard Fettweis

At first, just as the IoT, the Tactile Internet was a diffused idea. Foreseeing the possibilities of future advancements as far back as 2012, Gerhard Fettweis, a mobile communications professor at TU Dresden, coined the term Tactile Internet and has worked towards making it an ubiquitous reality ever since.

“This way you could, for example, catch a falling object remotely, or control a connected car at an intersection. If you provide haptic feedback, you can also feel a reaction such that it seems to be instantaneous. The Tactile Internet will be used in areas such as automation, education, entertainment, gaming, farming, healthcare, and industrial transportation. It will also enable humans to control robots remotely in real time,” he explained.

Fettweis’s comment evidences the two main goals of the Tactile Internet: to enable “haptic feedback,” delivering  physical sensations—touch—in real time; and to enable networked control systems that work in such an intertwined and immediate way that highly dynamic processes can be automated or controlled remotely.

This is possible thanks to the key feature that distinguishes the Tactile Internet from its predecessors: the increased availability of reliable high-speed connections via mobile and broadband Internet, with extremely low round-trip latency times of about 1 ms. This latter aspect is crucial as it eliminates wait times between, let’s say, your hand moving and a robotic hand imitating the movement halfway across the world for sensitive uses—such as remote surgery.

Many more uses are likely to attract attention and development. Its potential for immediate reaction times worldwide expands further when paired together with other technologies—robotics, brain implants, VR, and others—could essentially replace the need of being physically present for surgeons, drivers, pilots hairdressers, and many other professions. Different applications would add sensorial information to MMO-style VR applications for a realistic rendering of Second Life.

Building on top of the capabilities of the prior one, each new generation of internet-enabled technologies makes our remote interactions easier. Hopefully, this new will promote interaction rather than automation, giving a more human side to tech that evens out increasingly abstract current trends in the vein of machine learning.


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