A tremendous froth of press and promotion has arisen in the last year concerning the Internet of Things. Nearly every High Tech firm on the globe has begun to advertise their offerings as an integral part of it, positioning their products and services as both essential to the IoT and as a vital component of its future. As the smartphone and tablet markets saturate and roll over, everyone wants to jump on the IoT bandwagon, hoping that it will be the Next Big Thing upon which High Tech fortunes are made and new businesses are built. Yet what is often lost amidst the hyperbole is what the IoT really is and what its effect on our lives will be.
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. – Milton, “Paradise Lost”
Enthusiasts envision a world where everyone can work, live and play out their lives thru the internet – sharing data & files, conducting business meetings over video, shopping, watching TV, cooking, managing the lights and the thermostat at home, driving, etc etc. This will be made possible by having every electrical appliance, instrument and object connected to the internet with its own unique address, rendered possible by IPv6.
Networking and Storage systems houses such as Juniper, Brocade, EMC and Cisco are salivating at the prospect of such a tsunami of streaming data. Every company building a widget with even the most inane wireless capability is touting their product as part of the IoT. Even companies as sober and conservative as IBM have been caught up in the media frenzy, anticipating a new Golden Age of High Tech.
Also read: Processor for Internet-of-Things (IoT)
Yet it remains impossible to name a truly successful IoT product introduced over the last five years. Samsung’s smart watch line has flopped – a shocker, since Samsung has performed so brilliantly in High Tech and, in particular, in Consumer Electronics over the last two decades. Google Glass has actually damaged the Google brand. Even the Apple Watch and Sony’s SmartEyeglass have been received by the market with a barely stifled yawn.
One thing is clear: no company has found the magic formula for inventing the successor to the smartphone. In fact, normally savvy and brilliant consumer electronics firms seem to have forgotten the lessons learned from products such as Sony’s Walkman and the Apple iPod:
Though the above may seem very obvious and just basic common sense, every single one of the major IoT products released over the last several years violates at least half of those principles.
Nonetheless, research-oriented technophiles have been anticipating the expansion of the internet into every facet of life and have been looking at ways to support it thru the infrastructure. There are three peer-to-peer wireless standards of significant interest contending for mastery of this space – Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wireless USB. All are based on existing, widely used and very robust protocols and have years of work and decades of expertise captured in their specifications. Nevertheless, as the following table demonstrates, none of them have a combination of performance, power, bandwidth and other features that makes it a clearly superior choice over the others:
Yet just as Adam and Eve changed everything when they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, the many far-reaching effects of the IoT will include their share of decidedly negative consequences. For instance: if a person has all of their home appliances connected to the internet and controlled thru their e-wallet-equipped smartphone, a third party – whether criminal or official – will be able to track everything this person buys, does and communicates on a daily basis, should they be able to hack into the personal network of that individual. And hack it they will – even purportedly secure and well protected systems for Wall Street firms, retailers and government agencies worldwide have been penetrated and their databases compromised by organized criminal enterprises. Governments the world over have also demonstrated how they can be a potential threat to their citizenry thru monitoring their communications and activities, the most recent scandal highlighting the LAPD and its disturbing pronouncement that all drivers in Los Angeles are being tracked.
I’m blogging about all this and more at http://vigilfuturi.blogspot.com. As the IoT turns into a juggernaut, we need to be prepared to deal with how it will affect our lives – embracing some parts of it while altering or resisting other aspects.