How drones, sensors, and even Google Glass are making news better.

The Internet of Things is set to disrupt media like never before. Marketing and advertising will be reborn, understanding and reaching consumers with an unprecedented degree of precision. That is not, however, the only way media will be changing. The internet completely changed the way journalists could interact with data. They could find more information, reach more people, and uncover the truth faster. The IoT is already infiltrating the way journalists work, and it has happened so seamlessly that the world almost hasn’t noticed.

Drone and Sensor Journalism

Consumers are busy reading about drones. The increasingly popular technology has sparked incredible videos, intriguing stories, and debates on ethics. Yet, the role they are beginning to play in journalism is almost unnoticed. This is perhaps because the entire world is adapting to new technology, and it’s emergence in the journalistic industry seems natural. Thomas Hannen, Innovation Producer for the BBC’s Global Video Production Unit, told Wired his first thoughts on drone footage: “We were seeing these amazing videos appearing on the internet and I remember vividly saying to people, ‘Why doesn’t the BBC do this? It would be great’.” The results were quick, and the team now owns multiple haxacopters used to gather footage. Drones don’t just offer up pretty landscape shots, but important images that complete a story. All kinds of footage comes from drones—from images of the sunken Costa Concordia, to Nebraska’s intense drought in 2012. When the Donetsk Airport was devastated last year, drones were heavily relied on to find footage, and led many to at least one case study on the topic. Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham Research, paints an empowering image of IoT in media:

“Let’s take a journalist crew in war zones. Maybe, they want to use AR [augmented reality] smart glasses in their activities, maybe recording what they see, and send data to the studio. Maybe, they want to use drones and they want to monitor and control the drones, but are also able to take the data from the drone and real-time analyze that data. Here, things get a bit more IoT: different sources of data from different devices and sources.”

Understanding disaster areas, war zones, or simply vast landscape is made both easier and safer with the internet of things. In fact, this is the very reason the term “sensor journalism” is becoming more and more pervasive. Journalism is very intensive, and journalists can’t always do large-scale, powerful, evidence-based all on their own. The world moves at rapid speed and readers need truly up-to-date information and news. The ability of smart technology to constantly gather data means journalists can get their hands on reliable and current information. Sensor Journalism relies on data input from sensors to trigger and support stories. According to the O’Reilly Radar, the Spatial Information Design Lab At Columbia University partnered with the Associated Press to uncover the truth about air quality in Beijing. The Chinese government had been pressured to improve air quality in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. While they released some information on air quality, they did not provide raw data, and made it difficult for outsiders to see what was really happening. Using cellphone sensors, reporters and the Beijing Air Tracks Project measured air quality and got the story, themselves.

Finding and Telling Stories With Wearables

The image of futuristic reporters wearing Google Glass is almost so stereotypical it’s funny. “Glass journalism” seems incredibly awkward, as if a journalist is able to simultaneously interview and read a running list of text scrolling through their vision. That future is actually much more realistic than it seems. That’s why the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism’s new Glass Journalism class has been covered by nearly every online news source around. The class explores how wearable devices will influence journalistic storytelling and news gathering. Glass and wearables in reporting will lead to better storytelling, as well as a slew of new apps and jobs. This is also why many see the future of reporting being intertwined with “citizen journalism.” The IoT enables individuals to be part of journalistic narratives, and to easily share unexpected stories on a very deep level. The “maker” nature of the IoT also means hacktivists and community will play a large role in the future of journalism. Hackers and makers can make open-source smart technology better, and get journalists (both full-time and “citizen”) better access to important data and stories.

Hype and Quandaries in the Internet of Media Things

The “internet of media things” is on the rise. It will enable new stories to be found, and be better told. However, as with any system that relies on data, there will major complications. Increased use of data tracking will inevitably lead to false conclusions. Mixing new, unstable technologies, with news sources that don’t yet know how to use them might lead to misreporting, or even manipulation. Third-party verification may become necessary—which will slow down the speedy stream of news. 2016 has also been termed the “year of the overdrone” in journalism. Directors may grab at anything technology will give them. Unnecessary imagery could lead to reporting that no one wants to see, or over reliance on its novelty. Drones and exploratory technology will, and already has, led to legal quandaries. Though connected tech can help journalists explore dangerous war zones, it also allows them into restricted areas. Many countries are struggling to create appropriate laws, and at least three unwitting BBC journalists were detained last year in Switzerland for using drones in no-fly zones.

The future is rife with narrative storytelling and technology, and it may happen quicker than readers expect. Robert Hernandez, the brain behind USC’s Glass Journalism class, puts it bluntly: “This is not sci-fi. It’s real stuff.”

image credit: Global Panorama

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