The Internet of Things: Smart toasters, smart cities or dumb marketing?

The catalyst for this post was a conversation with a bunch of great, smart people in IT about IoT. The general consensus was that the term meant different things to different people and had fallen victim to its own hype. Sound like any other computing term you know … (Cloud)?

It was then followed by a ton if hilarious examples about the weird things being connected to the internet (see Twitter:Internet of Shit) and the inherent security concerns with all of this (see Hello Barbie privacy fears and also Skynet)

What was very clear was that the conversation had jumped straight into the consumer space. That’s not surprising, given the keenness of companies to throw a ‘Smart’ label on anything these days. It’s amplified at the Consumer Electronics Show, where 2016 showed us more ways to “IoT enable” our newborns . Well, the things they use and wear, that is.

This tech savvy generation is weary of ‘the next big thing’ in technology. We’re not watching The Jetsons, hoping for our flying cars, food replicators and Rosie robots. We’ve got the Internet in our pockets and it’s almost impossible to buy a TV that isn’t Smart.

And we’ve put up with terms like ‘Cloud computing’, knowing it’s just a collection of other people’s computers … unless you have a different definition, which is quite possible.

I understand why it can be seen as just another overhyped marketing term, peppered with the odd successful Kickstarter project.

But that’s not my Internet of Things. My mental picture doesn’t have me ordering groceries from the front of the refrigerator. And I don’t count my TV as an IoT device. Sure it can get updates from and even browse the Internet, but it’s not transmitting back how long it’s been on for or how hot it’s getting.

I’m thinking of escalators. Specifically, the London Underground.

And it’s Microsoft’s fault.

The London Underground is a spectacular example of the business benefit of IoT. Previously dumb devices are now able to send information about their performance and status real-time. This allows for better failure prevention, repair response and future planning. This 1min 44 sec video explains it in a nutshell – pay attention to what’s onscreen ,specifically the dashboards.

The real benefit of IoT is the DATA.

Yes, remote control is handy too. I can turn on one of my home air conditioning units from my phone when I’m out. And to some extent, although it isn’t shown, perhaps the London Underground has some control of the devices via this network too.

But it’s the information from these things we’re connecting that allows us to make decisions, act & react. That’s the benefit of data, period. The dashboards and numbers are nothing if we don’t do something with them. The goal is that more data, the right kinds of data, will lead to better decisions and better actions. That’s how you change a city.

Our current society expects advancement in consumer tech (and for it to be in our hands) long before businesses have developed and implemented it. Yes, much like the Cloud, for traditional Enterprises. And we’re just not sure that we need our homes connected, as ‘fun & geeky’ as it is.

But you’re not going to change a city with a smart toaster.

Wrap your head around making IoT affordable and practical at my public transport stations, my local shopping mall, my supermarket checkout .. now the world is going to run smoother. The day I can guarantee my shopping trolley won’t veer to the right, because you’ve already pulled it out of service, will be a very happy day. I know, I know, cost benefit analysis for making me a happy shopper might not quite stack up just yet.

Maybe it would for an Elevator servicing company, resulting in less down time in a multi-storey building?

My mental image of the Internet of Things is business related, because I think that’s where it will make the most impact if it’s adopted properly. And maybe I’ve got you thinking differently now, too. Play ‘Spot the IoT Opportunity’ as you go about your day tomorrow.

Because it’s not the technology that counts … it’s what you do with it.

-SCuffy.

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2 thoughts on “The Internet of Things: Smart toasters, smart cities or dumb marketing?

  1. I’m certain the world will be a much better place if all the toasters and hair dryers had a higher IQ. On another note, I heard they might be coming out with a screen door for a submarine. *hoping to never see a $300 toaster in my lifetime*

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