“Everything is connected. Connection is power.” That’s the ominous motto from “Watch Dogs”, the open-world action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal, published by Ubisoft, and set for release on 27 May 2014. Now compare that phrase to this one: “Instrumented. Intelligent. Interconnected.” Can you guess where it comes from? From the Smarter Planet strategy by IBM.
If you’ve been surfing the Twittersphere recently, then you’ve probably seen the waves of videos and articles about “Watch Dogs” and arguably, the freshest interpretation of Chicago-scale hacking since “The Matrix“. On top of that, if you’re a fan of Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” gameplay like I am, then blending high-tech hacking with “Grand Theft Auto“-style chasing should sound juicy indeed.
Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. Although IBM acquired TRIRIGA’s facility and real estate management software because it fit well under IBM’s Smarter Buildings strategy, I’m starting to hear more buzz about how its Smarter Planet vision is preparing us for the hyperconnected “Internet of Things” or IoT. Are we living in a “Watch Dogs” reality after all?
What is Watch Dogs? What is ctOS?
First, for those of you unfamiliar with the next-gen video game or its hacking-edge story, here are several excerpts from Wikipedia, Gamepedia, and Ubisoft at YouTube. Everything is connected.
- Wikipedia: Watch Dogs (23 May 2014)
Watch Dogs is a third-person shooter set in an open world recreation of Chicago, Illinois. The fictionalized, hyper-connected version of the city is managed through a centralized system called ctOS. The single-player story is told through Aiden Pearce, a highly skilled grey hat hacker who can hack into the ctOS, granting him access to various electronic systems, either to obtain and control information or to interact with these systems to his advantage. An online multiplayer mode is also provided in the game, allowing up to eight players to engage in both co-operative and competitive gameplay in a recreation of the single-player setting…
The storyline of Watch Dogs game is built around the concept of information warfare, data being interconnected, and the world’s increasing use of technology—questioning who exactly runs the computers they depend on. The game is set in an alternate reality version of Chicago, Illinois, which is one of many cities to feature a supercomputer known as ctOS. In the game’s universe, the Northeast blackout of 2003 was found to be caused by a hacker, prompting the development of the ctOS.
- Watch Dogs Gamepedia: ctOS (20 Jan 2014)
The ctOS (Central Operating System) is a massive computer system which controls the major electronic systems throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area. The OS processes the entirety of the information network, processing personal data, recording and storing the digital presence of its citizens, and influencing political, intellectual, and general thought. The OS is controlled largely by private corporations and companies who aim to use the OS for their own gains and purposes, often using the information against their enemies and competitors. Aiden Pearce has access to the ctOS through the use of his Profiler, which allows him to manipulate and control the city’s security system, safety web, and surveillance network.
In Watch Dogs, access to the ctOS will occur gradually, with basic hacking leading to greater access and yet more complex challenges. The ctOS system was originally designed and implemented by the Blume Corporation in 2011 following the major blackout of the American Northeast in 2003, which left over 55 million people in the dark, causing numerous deaths and injuries.
- Ubisoft: Watch Dogs | E3 Introduction Trailer (04 Jun 2012) (YouTube: 3 minutes)
ctOS is a computer software that manages entire cities, providing centralized control over subway lines, traffic lights, surveillance cameras, and electricity grids. A computer now controls a major city. But who controls the computer? The answer is: Private companies that have everything to gain from a ctOS. Personal data collection is the key commodity. You are no longer an individual. You are a data cluster bound to a vast global network. Last year, the average American cast a digital shadow of over 2.3 gigabytes. What does that represent? Of course, there are credit cards, medical records, and reading habits. But a ctOS includes much more.
Massive data silos track and sort every moment of your digital life, revealing how you think and what you believe. That information could be turned against you, not just to sell products, but to influence your world views. ctOS directly links your personal information to the physical systems you use everyday, essentially providing a direct line to your bedroom laptop. Because all data is interconnected. From Nigerian email scams to hardcore pornography, online shopping to emergency services, it’s all part of the same network. Ten years ago, one man shut down the entire Northeast from a central control room. Today, everything can be hacked.
What is the Internet of Things? What is IoT?
Next, for those of you unfamiliar with the Internet of Things and its exponential evolution, here are several excerpts from Wikipedia, IBM at YouTube, and Cisco at YouTube. Billions of connections.
- Wikipedia: Internet of Things (22 May 2014)
Today, however, the term Internet of Things (commonly abbreviated as IoT) is used to denote advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services that goes beyond the traditional machine-to-machine (M2M) and covers a variety of protocols, domains and applications.
According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. According to ABI Research, more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020. Cisco created a dynamic “connections counter” to track the estimated number of connected things from July 2013 until July 2020 (methodology included). This concept, where devices connect to the internet/web via low-power radio, is the most active research area in IoT. The low-power radios do not need to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Lower-power and lower-cost alternatives are being explored under the category of Chirp Networks.
- IBM: The Internet of Things (15 Mar 2010) (YouTube: 5 minutes)
Over the past century, but accelerating over the past couple of decades, we have seen the emergence of a kind of global data field. The planet itself — natural systems, human systems, physical objects — have always generated an enormous amount of data, but we didn’t used to be able to hear it, to see it, to capture it. Now we can because all of this stuff is now instrumented. And it’s all interconnected, so now we can actually have access to it. So, in effect, the planet has grown a central nervous system…
Look at that complex set of relationships among all of these complex systems. If we can actually begin to see the patterns in the data, then we have a much better chance of actually getting our arms around this. That’s where societies become more efficient. That’s where more innovation is sparked.
- Cisco: How the Internet of Things Will Change Everything (05 Jan 2012) (YouTube: 3 minutes)
The Internet of Things represents the next evolution of the Internet, taking a huge leap in its ability to gather, analyze, and distribute data that we can turn into information, knowledge, and ultimately, wisdom. According to Cisco IBSG [Internet Business Solutions Group], the Internet of Things was born between 2008 and 2009. Simply put, it is the point in time when more devices or objects were connected to the Internet than people.
Currently, the Internet of Things is made up of a loose collection of disparate purpose-built networks. Today’s cars, for example, have multiple networks to control engine function, safety features, communication systems, and so on. But as the Internet of Things evolves, we’ll see these networks interconnect with added security, analytics, and management capabilities. Already, Internet of Things projects are under way that promise to close the gap between poor and rich, improve distribution of the world’s resources to those who need them most, and help us understand our planet so we can be more proactive and less reactive.
What separates ctOS from IoT?
The similarity between ctOS and IoT is striking. If you compare the above Ubisoft trailer to the above Cisco video, can you tell me where the technological reality ends and the technological fantasy begins? What might be more chilling is that the Central Operating System fantasy only represents the scale of a Smarter City, while the Internet of Things reality spans the scale of a Smarter Planet!
Not only do both the ctOS and IoT visions repeatedly, almost hypnotically, highlight the concept of a connected, interconnected, and hyperconnected world, but these two videos even look and sound strikingly similar. A coincidence? Did Ubisoft intentionally research Cisco, IBM, and other companies to get the same style and tone in their videos? Or has Internet reality finally caught up with fantasy?
What are my final thoughts?
When the above IBM video speaker observed that “the planet has grown a central nervous system”, maybe he should’ve said “central operating system”. Who knows? Within the next few years, IBM might feasibly find and acquire a real-life version of Blume Corporation’s ctOS software for its Smarter Planet initiative, just like it acquired TRIRIGA’s software for its Smarter Buildings strategy.
But even if IBM doesn’t acquire a Blume-like corporation, it could develop its own ctOS-like software by building upon its own IBM Watson supercomputing platform. “Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer — by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes.” Sounds familiar?
Meanwhile, here are a couple-dozen more wallpapers and screenshots to give you an electrifying hyperconnected taste of Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs”. Are you ready to hack into Chicago’s ctOS and turn Chicago into your greatest weapon? Although Ubisoft thought that “New York’s grid was too stiff” and Los Angeles “was too overdone”, I hope the sequel is titled “Watch Dogs 2: Las Vegas”. :)
Instrumented. Intelligent. Interconnected… Everything is connected. Connection is power.
Do I have an update?
Three months after watching the Watch Dogs, I found myself sharpening senses with social media!
More than two years after watching the Watch Dogs, I found myself investigating IBM vs. TPP!
- The Internet of Things: Infographic (share.cisco.com)
- What’s Wrong with the Internet of Things (www.linkedin.com)
- How the Internet of Things Changes Everything (blogs.hbr.org)
- 12 most powerful Internet of Things companies (www.networkworld.com)
- In the Programmable World, All Our Objects Will Act as One (www.wired.com)
- Watch Dogs makes Chicago a digitized surveillance state (articles.chicagotribune.com)
- Breaking Down The Buzz Around The Internet Of Things (www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk)