While it may be a good headline that Gartner condemned the Internet of Things (IoT) as one of the most overhyped technology trends of 2015, it is somewhat misleading by failing to acknowledge the rapid progress being made – even if these are still early days. However, Gartner was correct that the full promise of IoT as a joined up ecosystem of interoperable components is indeed five to 10 years away.
There are already demonstrable products in trials and actual deployments spanning several key market sectors, including wearables, home environmental control, security monitoring, healthcare diagnostics and the connected car. Devices are now available in all of these areas that are capable of communicating via SIM cards over cellular networks, although some in-home devices also use fixed broadband combined with local wireless protocols, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee.
When discussing IoT, it is always worth taking a step back to consider what it is. The roots lie in embedded computing; even the simplest IoT device must have some processing capability, even if it’s for something as simple as responding to polling.
But IoT is more than an embedded processor with added wireless IP connectivity, which would merely enable isolated islands of automation or control to arise within vertically integrated sectors such as home security. The true power of IoT will come when a variety of devices can interwork, with the key added ingredient being interoperability. But there are major stumbling blocks due to a lack of standards in areas ranging from local wireless protocols to configuration management.
In the broader context, the condemnation of IoT as overhype is untimely in that it has come at a time when momentum behind IoT is growing more rapidly than ever before
However, interoperability is already happening, albeit not yet on a universal and global scale. We are seeing this happen for both B2B and B2C deployments. On the B2B front, US embedded system developer Freescale has developed a telehealth gateway available to third party services or app providers for coordinating and collecting data from diagnostic devices in the home. This has now been extended to embrace smart energy, consumer electronics, home automation and security monitoring, taking a major step towards enabling a joined up digital home.
Similar proprietary, yet standards based ecosystems are also emerging for direct B2C applications from retailers like Staples and energy utilities such as British Gas, which has plans to extend beyond heating and hot water control to embrace other aspects of the digital home. Also in B2C we have Google’s Nest making a play for the digital home by launching a developer program that could open up the intelligent thermostats to other gadgets and services. Of course Google wants to make Nest the hub of the home, but at the same time it has opened the door for other vendors to compete to be the home’s IoT guardian.
Meanwhile, devices are coming forward in key categories including wearables, like Fitbit’s wireless enabled tracking devices for monitoring exercise activity and sleep patterns, and home security monitoring systems like the Piper range. While it is correct that some of the more excessive and starry eyed predictions by IoT evangelists have so far failed to materialise, IP connected toasters, fridges and microwaves remain locked firmly in research laboratories with little sign of emergence anytime soon.
Yet in the broader context, the condemnation of IoT as overhype is untimely in that it has come at a time when momentum behind IoT is growing more rapidly than ever before. It was Gartner after all, that predicted back in 2013 that the installed base of IoT devices would soar over the next few years to reach 26 billion by 2020, creating a “network rich with information that will allow supply chains to assemble and communicate in new ways”. Presumably that has not now been dismissed as hype.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their IoT use-cases? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.