At CES, the IoT was everywhere. In the real world, it’s more hype than reality.
(Also see: Everyone is excited about sensors, connectivity and the Internet of Things – except me)
For hardware makers with few really new products on the horizon to get excited about, it’s nice to have something that sparks the imagination and promises to change the world, but here’s the main problem: everything is all hope and hype, as far as most of us are concerned, at least. “The Internet of Things” is a catchphrase that doesn’t actually translate to anything tangible yet. It’s something that conditions us to get excited without really thinking about how it’s going to improve our lives.
The IoT means far too many things to far too many people. As we saw at CES this year, it boils down to “anything that can create data and send it to other devices.” This includes ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, portable appliances, security sensors, curtains, doorbells, faucets, cars, lamps, spoons, store displays, vending machines. .virtually anything you can interact with at any time in your life. Each of these things can generate data, tell you what’s going on around it, and give you objective statistics on how and how much it’s being used. But how much of that is significant? Maybe it’s important that you can get an alert on your phone if a burglar breaks your windows at home, but do we all need toothbrushes that record our dental hygiene habits or mixers that share automatically our smoothie recipes on social networks? This part of the conversation is just beginning to emerge.
(Also see: The Internet of Unsecured Things)
What is really happening right now is a gold rush. Most markets are saturated with TVs, smartphones and tablets; and sales figures for previously popular categories such as stand-alone cameras and media players are plummeting. As products mature and homogenize, aggressive upgrade cycles cannot secure new buyers any longer. The industry needs a new “must have” thing to drive new sales.
Emerging tech categories such as 3D printers, drones, wearables, and VR products are undoubtedly seeing success, but they all seem too niche. They don’t have the kind of appeal that makes everyone want one in their life (let alone multiple units). The demand for all of these product categories combined will not be as high as the demand for smartphones. The industry hopes everyone will buy the IoT not just because it’s new and exciting and promises wonderful new things, but also because it means you’ll end up feeling like you have to replace every piece of technology you own. (and many non-tech things too) with new IoT-enabled versions.
And that’s why it all looks like a coordinated, industry-wide marketing campaign. The foundations are laid well in advance so that we buyers don’t even have the right to think that it’s just a fad or a wave that will pass. Much like “the cloud” as a buzzword, the IoT retrospectively encompasses things that have been around for a while – but now we’re supposed to see internet-connected fridges and security cameras as smaller parts of the internet. a new larger scheme.
That’s not to say they all have no purpose; the result will certainly be great, useful and life-enhancing products and services, but it will happen whether or not the IoT buzz tells us it’s because we’ve entered a new era of technology.
Industrial applications are particularly suited to sensors that can monitor conditions down to the finest tolerances, identify bottlenecks, and continuously learn how to improve performance while reducing the need for human intervention. Obviously, none of this should be done over the public internet – but it’s all grouped under “IoT” because of the common themes of data generation and interpretation. Obviously, the definition needs to be worked on.
Ultimately, “IoT” is not a standard that specifies one type of functionality or capability. It’s a generic term for a sort of reflection on how devices can behave – but we need to understand how they should behave, taking into account these capacities. It’s basically branding, telling you that there are wonderful new things to buy, and not everything you have right now is exciting or rewarding.
Everyone from established electronics giants to individuals with just an idea and a Kickstarter page are desperate to establish themselves as a trendsetter, imagining that everyone will have to build around them. As with any other new technology, there will undoubtedly be multiple competing, conflicting and confusing products, services and ideas at first, and we will have to go through a long and painful sifting process before some fall and others become Standards. . Those who survive will be those who define what the IoT is, beyond just empty hype.
Disclosure: The correspondent’s flights for CES were sponsored by Broadcom.
Check out the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360, in our CES 2023 hub.