The Externet

The internet connected our computers together and created a virtual world along with a tsunami of change and innovation.  The externet will connect the physical world to the virtual one and complete the circle.  Everything will be connected, communicating, updating, and aware.

How will this happen?

Near field communication will bridge the two worlds together.   Most notably NFC is bantered about in the media as a way to enable the ‘eWallet’.  While it does this, there are competing technologies that could do this today without NFC.  Check out Square’s card case for instance.

Regardless of who wins the eWallet race, NFC enables much more.

What are the implications?

Let’s take an ordinary Saturday in my home town of St. Louis.  Waking up to the alarm on my Android or iPhone device at 7:30 am, I jump in the shower and get my son up for soccer practice.

When I get to my car I put my device in the NFC holster and my car’s app opens up.  It knows its me since my identity app conveys this to the car app.  All system diagnostics for this trip will be recorded with me as the driver.  My virtual keys are differernt from my wifes.  I press start and the engine is running a little rough.  The car app now gives me a menu:

1. Owner’s Manual

2. Diagnostics History

3. Music

4. Video

5. Climate

6. Navigation

7. Maintenance

8. Insurance

9. Trade In

I check the Owner’s Manual and it says I may be using the wrong oil.  The remedy is to let it run for a few minutes before driving.

After letting the car warm up a bit, I head to the soccer field.  I’m feeling jovial so I choose ‘Music’ at the stoplight and start playing one of my favorite 80s playlists.  I hardly notice the police lights behind me.  Apparently, I was feeling too jovial.

The police officer conveys that I was exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles an hour.  He asks for my license & registration, so I pop those apps open and tap his NFC reader to download that data to his device.   Within a couple of seconds his device verifies that I’m not a wanted criminal and that my insurance data is up to date and paid.  He then tells me the speeding ticket is $50.00.  I pay right there by tapping his reader.

At the field,  I notice Owen’s soccer shoes are looking a little old, so I tap the NFC chip to see the receipt, which tells me these were bought 2 years ago for $49.97 at the online Adidas store.  Furthermore, due to a small pedometer powered by a battery and tiny solar panel….I know that Owen has taken 224,321 steps in these shoes.  A link allows me to look at newer models and sizes.  But wait, I don’t know Owen’s shoe size.  I take his shoe off and take a picture of his foot and then ask the photo app to measure it.  It tells me he’s grown a size and now requires a 9.  I let Owen choose the style he likes after he models it on his foot picture, and then we purchase.

When the coach shows up he asks everyone to sign in.  He puts his tablet on the bench and enables the NFC registration app.  I tap the app and sign Owen & myself in using the Soccer League app.   Later the coach will use the registrations to post notes about each child’s progress, fees owed, and the upcoming schedule.  All of which I can view from my device.  Furthermore I’m banking on the notion that a solid record of Owen’s progress as a soccer player will make him a shoe in for the English Premier League.

During practice I strike up a conversation with one of the parents.  We have similar technology interests and he might make a good business partner some day, so I ask to exchange business cards with him.  He says sure, and we tap our phones together to do the exchange.

After practice we go to McDonald’s, Owen’s favorite.  We look at the menu and tap the selections we’d like to purchase.  As a bonus the menu also downloads the nutritional data into my Health app and registers the calories Owen and I will consume.  To get a 10% discount McDonald’s asks me to share some of my personal demographic information with them, so I press yes on the device, and the data is downloaded from my Identity application.  Anything to save a buck.

But wait did I pay with Visa, Mastercard, PayPal or AMEX?  Turns out I paid with a totally new virtual credit card called GOOG-EX.  Mobile payments made issuing credit and competing with existing credit card companies easier and lowered the barriers to entry against the major providers.  I chose Google’s brand new credit card because they tied my interest rate to my credit score.  Since I have one in the 800s they gave me a low interest rate of 5% and a penalty rate of only 7%.

After McDonald’s, Owen and i left and I started feeling bad.  In fact, I felt horrible. I drive to the hospital, and they ask me to tap my phone on the NFC reader to register at the hospital Emergency Room.  Instantly my health insurance is verified, my identity registered in all the downstream systems of the hospital, and my visit is appended to my health records on my Health Record App.

As I go through each triage station in the hospital they update my health record with their findings, lab results, x-rays, and notes.  All of this I can share with any healthcare provider.  Rather than the medical record database being housed with individual hospitals that never talk to each other…the data is stored with my Health Record App and I can share it with anyone I want….a distributed database of sorts.  At the end of my visit, my doctor notes that I ate at McDonald’s and he had several patients come from the same McDonald’s today with similar conditions.  He thinks it is food poisoning.


That’s a small smattering of the Externet.  Realize the technology change standing before us will move quickly.   The devices are there, the apps are being built, and the profits are ripe for companies and individuals who see the vision and can make it happen.  Other technologies, like NXP Semiconductor’s GreenChip will couple these worlds closer.

In time we’ll be able to schedule, monitor and control our physical world from our favorite Android or iPhone device.  NFC, while currently riding the wave of Mobile Payments, will open the gates to a truly connected world.  The Externet is the next logical step to wiring our universe.