The Internet of Things is perhaps the most exciting technological, non-incremental revolution since the move from mechanical to digital computing. Since that premise cannot be supported without the benefit of an historical view, we’ll have to wait to see whether or not I’m right.
It does seem to be clear already though, that with this great potential for change has come a great responsibility to society to protect its infrastructure and citizens’ privacy. We need to guard our privacy from bad actors seeking to take advantage of the connectivity inherent in the systems of systems we’re building.
We who are working in this industry also, I think, have a responsibility to consider how we can bring the technology under development to bear, not just on the bottom lines of our companies, but also on the problems of society. The big challenges facing humanity like global hunger, education, healthcare, climate change, and physical safety can all benefit from the strategic application of IoT solutions.
And I’m not talking about individual, stand-alone solutions here, although things like water cleaning systems or building security are wonderful and helpful. Instead, I am looking for the IoT industry to look in earnest at integrated systems of things. I don’t imagine that the acronym SoT will ever catch on, though.
Over the last few years, I have seen some major trends forming across nearly every vertical in the consumer and industrial spaces, and these trends looked like they were pointing toward a future in which the IoT would indeed be improving the lives and living conditions of people all over the world. So I decided to write a book to look for patterns in those trends.
That book, published in February, is called “IoT Time: Evolving Trends in the Internet of Things.”
I see this direction as the best case scenario for the industry, and I look forward to the day when IoT makes the supply chain more efficient in food delivery, healthcare is driven by big data, doctors are accessible to anyone at a moment’s notice through telemedicine, and manufacturing is performed in dark factories.
This utopian scenario only comes into place as the systems of things become ubiquitous and invisible, like electricity has been in the developed world, and as the internet is becoming.
So I began to dig into the stories, columns, and guest articles I’d published over the last year to see if I could find any common threads and indications of progress, problems, or predictive factors in the volume of news items and opinion pieces that had crossed my desk. I began to read, sort, and look for patterns. I felt a bit like Sherlock Holmes up in his 221B Baker Street loft, looking for clues in newspapers and cigarette butts, but without all the deductive genius or dapper good looks.
A few themes emerged fairly quickly, and I started looking at how the outcomes of the IoT most often present themselves. Since outcomes are a big part of how success is evaluated and how perceptions are determined, it seems to me that where the tech ends up is a great place to begin.
The first big division I saw was between the consumer and industrial IoT, or IIoT. That was the easiest call, because what other branches have as big a part to play in the shaping of an industry than B-to-B vs. B-to-C? Smart city is the third big grouping I used. It relies on the IIoT and consumer worlds to work together from the smart grid to the smart building and the connected home.
The next big piece of the puzzle is how the IoT is going to be the leading enabler of sustainability in the next few decades. Innovations in supply chain, food growing methodology, data collection, and analytical science are going to mean more food, more energy, more connectivity, and more efficient delivery of all of the above to more people that need it.
And that’s the essence of the power of the IoT for me: the systems of things that will combine into smart nations, until we have a smart Earth that shares ever-growing data sets, upon which ever-smarter computers can perform analytics that teach them how to constantly improve operations in exponential, non-linear ways instead of incremental change that never quite reaches the people that truly need the answers that it can provide.
The fifth and final segment I explore in the book is security. What a debacle the story of IoT security has been over the last few years. With breach after breach, and now the edge serving as an attack vector against other more vital systems, it seems like the IoT industry isn’t fighting the villains so much as hoping the bad guys won’t notice them. The same old tactics are failing. If not failing, then they are certainly proving themselves to be insufficient.
It can’t anymore be about simply securing the hardware, encrypting the data, changing the passwords, and ignoring privacy. And so, I ended the book with a look at the progress the industry has made along that road, perhaps the rockiest we need to travel. There are some failures, but many successes too, and quite a few positive signs for the future, as I see it.
Going through all of this material again (and again) has been quite an eye opener for me. It’s amazing to see the maturity of the industry growing, and the growing pains of finding that maturity.
As Rick Whitt, corporate director for strategic initiatives at Google, wrote in his amazing forward, the state of the IoT is good. The more than 150 trends I covered in the book are snapshots and indications of what I’ve been seeing and what things I think will shape our little IoT in the coming years.
This is a very exciting time to be chronicling technology and engineering and connectivity, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to watch all of you brilliant and innovative folks building this transformative thing we all call the IoT.
Keep up the good work!
To get a digital copy of the book for free, click here. A print edition is also available on Amazon for $14.99.
Edited by Ken Briodagh