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Nowadays, we are all pretty familiar with the term “cloud” as it relates to our Internet gadgets. Information is stored off of a device, with the device simply accessing it. So researchers on a multi-university team are taking this idea and looking into how to implement it on a massive scale. They are calling this the TerraSwarm.

Ambitious? Oh yeah. Risky? Of course. We already publish a ton of private information on the Internet. Mobile devices also have a ridiculous amount of access to your information: where you are, who you’re talking to and what you say. Being connected to a TerraSwarm — as the name suggests, an Earth-spanning network — may leave people vulnerable in ways we can’t predict.

But it also has the potential to improve everyone’s quality of life. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of this ambitious research project led by campus EECS professor Edward A. Lee.

According to a press release from the TerraSwarm Research Center, sensors would collect data such as “embedded vision, audio, location, movement, temperature and air quality,” and actuators would put that information to work. These things could be used to “direct the control of physical devices in smart buildings, transportation systems, medical systems, security systems, and homes.”

Just think about it: fully automated transportation systems (coupled with Google’s self-driving car), houses that sense when you’re hungry and cook you a meal (maybe we’re taking this too far) and phones that sense when you’re drunk-dialing and call you a jackass.

It could also significantly change our university. Security systems that alert the authorities if you’re in trouble on campus. Automated shuttles running 24/7. Sensors that identify depressed or suicidal students and get them help. Automatic AA notifications when there is illicit alcohol consumption.

But seriously, this sounds like a cliche premise to a science fiction movie. The name “TerraSwarm” doesn’t exactly elicit trust. But this kind of stuff is inevitable, in our opinion. We aren’t luddites. In fact, we’re chomping at the bit to replace all of our limbs with high-functioning synthetic ones so we can pick up cars or whatever.

All hail the TerraSwarm!

Image source: DoNotLick under Creative Commons

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