Posted by Karen B on 22/04/2014
The discussion about the Internet of Things is nothing but lively. Already companies and standards organizations are developing new standards and leveraging existing ones to make IoT a reality. Here’s an article from CNN.com about Qualcomm’s move to create an interoperable platform for IoT with a couple statements from me. (The comments from the general public are quite entertaining; take a look.) For IoT to become a reality, standards will be the key to success.
One of the interesting debates is about when IoT will become mainstream. Some believe it will be 10-15 years or maybe never. Others say it has already arrived – at least partially for early adopters.
Given that standards are required to bring IoT to everyone, what other factors could hold back IoT from being broadly adopted? At least three come to mind.
Yes, durable goods are holding IoT back. Why? It’s relatively inexpensive for manufacturers to include a Wi-Fi feature in a major appliance such as a refrigerator or washing machine, and it shouldn’t raise the price appreciably. It would be nice to know via smartphone alert that the refrigerator door is ajar and the food is beginning to spoil, or that the clothes have been washed, have been in the machine for a day, and are starting to grow mildew. But is this compelling enough to a consumer to throw out perfectly good major appliances that have years of life still in them in favor of fancy (and expensive!) new ones? Most likely, no. Instead, a sizable purchase of an IoT-ready appliance will be several years down the road.
Privacy and security are an important consideration when it comes to IoT. People don’t want Big Brother watching them through their smart electric meters, and they worry that Google glass wearers are recording their every move. And how scary is it to see a car on the highway with no driver? As governments are forced to become more transparent in their surveillance activities and as product developers build in security protocols, people will fear less and adopt more IoT devices. But etiquette will need to be established as well. Respectful use of cameras and publishing will add a behavioral aspect to the Internet of Things. As for self-driving cars, they are in their infancy but if they prove themselves to be trustworthy, i.e., significantly fewer crashes than manned automobiles, there may come a time when old-timers say, “Remember back in the day when we had to drive our own cars?”
Governments play a very big part in our lives, for better or for worse. (I think it’s both.) They have a lot of say when it comes to our health and safety, somewhat less when it comes to our consumer desires. Because IoT has aspects of health and safety, government regulations have a huge potential for slowing down IoT in certain spaces. A good example is in the area of wearable devices that monitor our physical well-being. A gadget that measures how many steps a person takes or how high their heart rate is during exercise is purely a consumer product.. But connected via Wi-Fi to a doctor’s office for patient monitoring and care, it becomes something altogether different. Any device that deals with hospitals or doctors must obtain approval from the FDA before it can go on the market because it’s considered to be a medical device. FDA approval can take 10 years, so don’t expect to see an abundance of health applications in IoT for a while.
Decades ago, the talk was about the future “Information Highway” and all its implications. Today that term has disappeared, and we live in a world where the Internet is simply a part of everyday life. To me, the Internet of Things will have arrived when “IoT” is no longer a part of our vocabulary. What do you think?