A neologism for a currently theoretical object that can be tracked through space and time throughout its lifetime…
Spime is a neologism for a futuristic object, characteristic to the Internet of Things, that can be tracked through space and time throughout its lifetime. They are essentially virtual master objects that can, at various times, have physical incarnations of itself. An object can be considered a spime when all of its essential information is stored in the cloud. Bruce Sterling sees spimes as coming through the convergence of six emerging technologies, related to both the manufacturing process for consumer goods, and through identification and location technologies. Depending on context, the term “Spime” can refer to both – the archetype, as designed by the developer, or a user specific instance of it.
The term spime was coined for this concept by author Bruce Sterling. It is a contraction of “space” and “time” which derives from his thought of a spime being an “object precisely localized in time and space […] always associated with a history.” The term was probably first used in a large public forum by Sterling at SIGGRAPH Los Angeles, August 2004. The idea was further expanded upon in his book Shaping Things. Later on the term has been adopted by industry pioneers world-wide.
Six facets of spimes:
1. Small, inexpensive means of remotely and uniquely identifying objects over short ranges; for example radio-frequency identification.
2. A mechanism to precisely locate something on Earth, such as a global-positioning system.
3. A way to mine large amounts of data for things that match some given criteria, like internet search engines.
4. Tools to virtually construct nearly any kind of object; computer-aided design.
5. Ways to rapidly prototype virtual objects into real ones. Sophisticated, automated fabrication of a specification for an object, through “three-dimensional printers.”
6. “Cradle-to-cradle” life-spans for objects. Cheap, effective recycling.
Bruce Sterling’s original essay introducing the idea:
In this way, information technology is laying bare the reality that underlies all manufactured objects. In a world of spimes, even the simplest objects – furniture, cutlery, power tools – will be little more than material billboards for a vast, interactive, postindustrial support system.
Of course, spimes will bring problems as well as benefits. Just as people struggle now with the dark side of the Net, they’ll struggle with the downside of spimes. Forewarned is forearmed. Get ready for:
• spime spam (vacuum cleaners that bellow ads for dust bags);
• spime-owner identity theft, fraud, malware, vandalism, and pranks;
• organized spime crime;
• software faults that make even a mop unusable;
• spime hazards (kitchens that fry the unwary, cars that drive off bridges);
• unpredictable emergent forms of networked spime behavior;
• objects that once were inert and are now expensive, fussy, fragile, hopelessly complex, and subversive of established values.
If ordinary folks can cope with these loathsome drawbacks, then spimes will be a massive improvement over the present closed, blind regime. Manufactured items will be more practical, efficient, and user- and environment-friendly. Modern products are advanced, but nowhere near advanced enough to sustain civilized life in the long run. This is the path forward.