April 2023 Issue Internet of Things Handbook

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By EE World Online Editor Leave a Comment

The Origami of the Internet of Things

Perhaps you see the connection between origami and the IoT right away. It only occurred to me while watching a documentary the other night, opening my mind further to the symbiotic relationship between art and science.

The film “Between the Folds, The Science of Art, The Art of Science,” a 2008 documentary about origami, seems as far removed from 27 billion connected IoT devices (by 2025) as that 27 billion number appears to be from reality. The paper points connected the lines with such elegant purpose. While maybe not necessarily as elegant, I was reminded of the iconic graphic representations of the IoT — electrified lines moving from point to point around the globe.

In addition to the professional origami master artists profiled, the director also treated us to the several scientists and mathematicians who had taken up the art form. One hyperrealist walked away from a successful physics career to challenge the physics of a folded piece of paper. I read another profile of an advanced mathematician and scientist who received a MacArthur Genius Award for computational origami research. I was fascinated by the mathematical tools resulting in folds fashioned into elaborate sculptures. Additionally, origami’s physical structure has consistently inspired innovation in engineering, from better heart stents to foldable equipment at NASA to the Kresling-Inspired Mechanical Switch (KIMS) that has the potential to introduce a new class of memory devices.

After watching the film, I asked my Japanese friend, an executive with a company providing AI operations tools for IT and DevOps teams, what is it about those billions of connected devices of the IoT that makes me think about origami?

She took about two minutes to nail it.

“IoT made previously invisible and unmeasurable things datapoints, just like you create points with previously flat paper,” she said. “And these data points and paper points connect different dimensions, and something new emerges, whether a new insight or a new three-dimensional shape.”

It’s true. I learned that origami evolved and became more complex with more folds, points, and creases, elevating to an art form along the way. Rather than following instructions to create the same things, origami artists are creating new, one-of-a-kind pieces. Now think of how products are traditionally made — with uniform configurations, which the user then adapts to the design and intent of the product. We shaped ourselves into a pre-defined piece. With IoT and the added layer of AI, we can now create one-of-a-kind pieces, just like that art origami. We aren’t limited to the original intent of a product. We make it our own.

Whether it is quantum computing giving artists a new way to envision the world or the origami of the Internet of Things, art and science are more innovative together than apart. Those billions of connected devices may indeed make every “thing” smarter. What we can create, envision, and dream of because of the massive amount of data communicated between the points is what will allow us to sculpt our world intelligently.

Aimee Kalnoskas

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