Droids, the Force, and the Internet of Things

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Star Wars – unless you’ve been living on the desert planet of Tatooine for the past year, there’s no way you’ve avoided hearing about the new movie that just opened in theaters. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has already broken records with more than $100 million dollars in pre-purchased tickets, and movie experts expect it will smash box office records. This movie has people once more excited about everything that took place in “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” While Jedi knights battling it out with lightsabers and ships that can travel faster than the speed of light may still be fantasy, it’s actually very easy to compare some of the things in the Star Wars universe to today’s technology.

One of these comparisons can be made with the Internet of Things, the term used to describe all of the interconnected devices we have today. The Internet of Things, or IoT, includes more than just computers, smartphones, and tablets. In fact, it’s usually used to describe smart devices rather than computers, although there’s really no difference, technically speaking, between the internet and IoT— they all connect to the same World Wide Web. IoT, however, includes things like smart printers, cars, thermostats, household lights, factory equipment, and much more. As long as the device is capable of connecting to the internet, it’s a part of the IoT.

How does IoT connect to Star Wars? Here are several different similarities between the popular franchise and today’s smart devices.

Droids

Let’s start with the droids. R2D2 and C-3PO have long been fan favorites ever since they appeared in the first Star Wars movie. In fact, the three droids have been the only characters to appear in all seven movies. What’s interesting is that R2D2 speaks only in beeps, whistles, and other noises, yet C-3PO (and even other characters) have no trouble understanding him. Now joined by BB-8 in The Force Awakens (another droid that speaks only in beeps), the three are more than capable of speaking to each other despite the fact that we can’t understand what R2D2 and BB-8 are actually saying. Perhaps they (and other droids) communicate wirelessly? We’ve seen droids in Star Wars manually interface with computer systems, but who’s to say they don’t have wifi capabilities?

The Clone Troopers

The prequel trilogy of Star Wars gave us a better look at the clone troopers, the army created ostensibly to serve the Republic but later commandeered by Darth Sidius to murder all of the Jedi. Every soldier in this army was a clone created from the man deemed the most skilled soldier around. Each also was implanted with a microchip. This inhibitor chip allowed Darth Sidius to override the clones’ loyalty to the Jedi and transformed them into his personal army. This connection may not have been a good use of technology, but could it be a look at how the Internet of Things will expand to include humans? Let’s hope if it is, that it’s used in a more benevolent way!

The Death Star and Other Giant Ships

Today, many people have converted their houses into smart homes that they can control from their phones. They’re able to change the thermostat, turn on and off lights, and even lock and unlock their doors from anywhere. The Death Star and many of the huge capital ships of the Star Wars universe must have some kind of automated systems and remote control—they’re simply too large to otherwise function. The Death Star is compared to a moon, and to control something that huge, there must be some kind of automated system in place. There also must be interconnected devices that can share information.

Does this mean Darth Vader’s suit has wifi? Was he remotely controlling the temperature in his room to ensure it would be nice and warm when he arrived? Maybe not, but that’s only because George Lucas didn’t have the IoT when he was writing the movies back in the 1970s! Today, you can be sure Kylo Ren makes full use of the First Order’s wifi.

The Force

No talk about interconnectivity and Star Wars would be complete without discussing the Force. People jokingly compare it to duct tape: it has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together. Jedi can sense everyone through the Force and can use it to accomplish a number of fantastical feats. In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we learn that the Force isn’t just a magical, invisible thing—it’s biological. Organisms called midi-chlorians live in the cells of all things, and it’s these organisms that connect everything to the Force. That certainly sounds like the IoT!

Are we a few steps away from Building the Death Star?

While you might say that the Force, droids, and other things in the Star Wars universe are simply science-fiction, the inspiration for them has to come from somewhere. Lucas may not have had the Internet of Things to draw upon for that inspiration when he created the concept of the Force or as a way to explain why R2D2 is perfectly understandable, but you have to admit, there are definitely similarities. We don’t have the capability of building a Death Star or advanced droids just yet, but you can bet when we do, they will be interconnected with many other devices.