IoT ruins movies: Jurassic Park

By | 5 minute read | October 27, 2017

Setting the scene

After my recent forays into the world of IoT, I re-watched Jurassic Park with fresh eyes. Unlike many sci-fi films, whose tech-of-the-future projections seem to fall into two categories – space age teleportation or clunky displays and shiny silver suits – JP’s ‘futuristic’ tech is, well, achievable. Some of it is widely available now: heads-up Virtual Reality displays, motion sensors that monitor movement and report it in real-time, remotely operated electric cars with interactive displays, and a robotic hand with a grip sensitive enough to handle delicate dino eggs. It’s not a remote-controlled robot hand either – this thing is self-operational. It’s connected. It’s IoT, baby.

Unfortunately, when it comes to controlling a park full of dinosaurs, even these expensive safety measures aren’t fail-safe. Regardless of how well-controlled the environment, life ultimately breaks free. The Jurassic Park experiment fails because a team of human beings assume they can predict and control an ancient ecosystem they know nothing about, and wield their enormous power without acknowledging the responsibility that comes with it.

It’s a good lesson for life. And undermining it leads, quite rightly, to being eaten. But what is the IoT ruins movies series here for if not to disrupt a few movie morals? So, since this is a purely imaginative exercise, and I won’t be eaten if I’m wrong, let’s see what Jurassic Park might have looked like in a world of connected devices and operations. In the words of Chief Engineer Ray Arnold: “hold on to your butts.”

The movie: Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is a 1993 science-fiction adventure about a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs, created by billionaire philanthropist John Hammond and his team of genetic scientists. Paleontologist Dr Alan Grant and paleobotanist Dr Ellie Sattler are invited to assess the park’s safety in the company of chaos theorist Ian Malcolm. Naturally, flawed humanity (in the shape of programmer Dennis Nedry) overrides the security systems so that he can steal embryos in pursuit of financial gain. The dinosaurs escape, joyously mauling many of the principal characters, and proving beyond doubt that despite costly control measures, “life finds a way.”

How the IoT could ruin Jurassic Park: connect those operations

If I ruled the world, or at least the park, I’d start by connecting the various systems and bits of equipment so that they worked together, rather than on their own. The problem with Jurassic Park is that too many things operate in a silo, despite seeming to be centrally managed.

Let’s take the electric tour cars, for instance. The cars run automatically on a track that leads them around the dinosaur enclosures. There are no locking mechanisms on the doors, so that if the tour is cut short for safety reasons, there is no way of ensuring the cars’ inhabitants won’t just refuse to get back in the vehicles and drive to safety. The vehicles rely wholly on a central electricity supply, and become stranded when this is turned off – right outside the T-Rex enclosure.

If these had been connected vehicles, like Olli, the self-driving, cognitive shuttle bus, they wouldn’t have needed to run on a track and could have returned safely to the visitors’ center despite the electricity cut. Receiving insights from sensor data collated on an IoT platform, a connected car could have received weather alerts, anticipated the tropical storm, worked out the shortest route back, automatically locked the doors, informed its passengers of the change of plan, and driven itself to safety. All because it shared data with other connected ‘things’ and systems in the park.

Accountability and responsibility with an enterprise IoT Platform

Dennis Nedry, the financially challenged computer programmer at Jurassic Park, shuts down its security systems in order to steal viable embryos and sell them to the park’s competitors. Once he shuts them off, no one else in the control center has the codes to access them again. Critical security systems are left entirely to the control of one, (unfortunately untrustworthy) individual.

An IoT Platform for enterprise asset management and facilities management could have brought critical systems under more visible control, enforcing best practices and accountability and preventing compromise by any individual.

Asset tracking: predicting the unpredictable with data

If you’re going to try and control powerful, violent, living things, you need to know as much as possible about them. You need data, and lots of it. You also need a way to collate, analyze, and extrapolate insights from that data, and have some kind of overview as to how many dinosaurs are in the park, where they are, what they’re doing, and whether they’ve spontaneously changed sex in an all-female environment in order to breed independently. That happens in the film, in case you thought I’d wandered down a particularly niche tangent.

This is where an IoT asset management system comes in. It can monitor assets in real time – whether they be dinosaur, equipment, vehicles, or even members of staff. This information could be collated into a handy dashboard, and made available to employees where necessary via a portable device or hands-free display.

Kitting out the dinosaurs with connected collars, for example, is one way to monitor their behavior, location and well-being from a safe distance. It also has safety implications for the park’s employees. In one hair-raising scene, Ellie Sattler and game warden Robert Muldoon must reach a maintenance shed to reboot the park’s power systems. Muldoon is attacked from the side by a velociraptor and killed instantly. If Muldoon had had a display unit showing him the whereabouts of animals nearby, he might have been able to anticipate the attack and escape the raptors.

An asset management system might also have thwarted Dennis Nedry’s attempt to steal the dinosaur embryos, by electronically tagging them. If the embryos had RFID tags, it would be impossible to remove them from their proper place without someone knowing about it. Sensors would trigger an alert that they had been removed from their container. As Dennis was the only member of staff not accounted for, John Hammond and the control center folk would have known Dennis was responsible, and been able to intercept his escape.

The last word: don’t try this at home

Insofar as technology can safeguard and protect to a reasonable degree, perhaps the IoT could have helped keep Jurassic Park safe. That said, I’m glad we won’t be putting it to the test any time soon.

IoT ruins other movies, too

This is just a fun way to explore how the IoT might work in daily life. Or if not daily life, then apocalyptic, death-defying, fictional scenarios, at least. You might be interested to see how we’ve ruined other movie plots with the help of the IoT. If so, check out our IoT ruins movies series or recommend films for the IoT ruins movies treatment in the comments below.