If you haven’t heard already everything that can be connected to ‘Internet of Things’ will be. That very same IOT, as it has become affectionately known, will become so pervasive that it will allow us (and machines) to do things we never would have dreamt of a few years back.
You may have also noticed that more and more objects are becoming embedded with sensors and gaining the ability to communicate. McKinsey & Company has noted that “the resulting information networks promise to create new business models, improve business processes, and reduce costs and risks.”
That may be true, but there will certainly be a lot of confusion, lots of money spent and many mistakes made before we see the real benefits of the IOT.
The promise of Smart Grid and properties connected with smart meters is yet to show real dividends despite massive investments by all parties concerned. The thinking behind it was to help producers to generate electricity more efficiently, for distribution networks to become more resilient and for consumers to better manage their electricity consumption.
The connected car is also becoming a reality although most car owners may not become aware of its existence until something goes wrong. It is being touted as a breakthrough that will help us save money on insurance as our driving habits become monitored and warn us of impending danger, etc. However, sceptics already feel that it is yet another infringement on privacy by tracking their whereabouts and gathering information about their destinations and habits to be used for marketing purposes later.
Mashable noted that “the advocates of an entirely different way of driving will tell you that we're within sight of the threshold, and connected cars are coming. But maybe not before manufacturers and developers agree on how different kinds of cars and apps will link together.”
And here lies the key issue for all things connected - who will be responsible for coordinating all these different elements and how will customers be able to control what affects them directly?
We were given some insight at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with a working example of a ‘Connected Home’ that was part of a ‘Connected City.’ In that home, AT&T were demonstrating how most of connected household devices could be controlled and managed via an application on a smartphone or tablet, either within the house or remotely.
The usual things like heating, air-conditioning, washers, lights and security were featured and even a pet-feeding apparatus that dropped a pre-determined volume of food into a bowl on command. In reality, almost anything that could contain a microchip with an IP address connected to the IOT could be managed from an external source.
Fantastic, yes, but practical - probably not. That’s because of the very same reasons Mashable raised above. Agreeing who will provide the glue to make all this work is the first issue, and giving the consumer the power to manage his own connected space quite another.
Logically, a trusted partner would be the first choice, but which one? Will it be their power company, the appliance manufacturer, the smartphone or app maker, or the telco that provides all that connectivity capability? Or will be a totally new disruptive player sitting in the wings waiting to pounce?
Whoever, or whatever, gets the lion’s share of this new ‘connected space’ it will almost certainly have to have the tools not only to manage all the component parts, but also the ability to monetize them. It may be more than a simple charge to the customer - it may require the suppliers benefiting from that connectivity to also contribute.
Perhaps a better model will be to learn from ants and bees that work in a collaborative process. They make things happen by working in a framework where each plays a role and works together with seemingly hidden communication. The term ’self-organizing’ comes to mind.
Maybe that’s being a little too hopeful, after all, it’s humans we are dealing with here!