The Internet of Things is bigger than we may realize.
We are experiencing a shift from a world of inanimate objects and reactive devices to a world where data, intelligence, and computing are distributed, ubiquitous, and networked. My fellow analysts and I at Altimeter Group refer to the Internet of Things (IoT) as the Sentient World. It’s the idea that inanimate objects gain the ability to perceive things, perform tasks, adapt, or help you adapt over time. And, it’s the future of the Internet and consumer electronics.
In 2008, the number of things connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on earth. By 2020, it’s expected that there will be 50 billion things connected.
A network of things creates an incredible information ecosystem that connects the online and physical world through a series of transactions. In a world where data becomes a natural bi-product of these exchanges, developers, businesses, and users alike are faced with the reality that data isn’t only big, its volume and benefits are also overwhelming.
Did you know that the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data every day? According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.
Considering the relationship between the Internet, data, and devices, I can’t help but think about Marshall McLuhan’s ominous words, “The more data banks record about each one of us, the less we exist.”
With the Internet of Things, that data takes residence in the cloud with various devices and apps siphoning and funneling information in and out, requiring an incredible amount of vision and architecture to organize, analyze, and present it in a way that makes sense while also offering insight and utility. Instead of eclipsing our individuality, I believe the future may reveal the exact opposite. There’s a sense of empowerment and personalization that emerges and, along the way, we subconsciously and consciously begin to crave it. We become insatiable in our pursuit of personalized feedback and it may, in fact, define us.
The Convergence of Devices, Data and the Net
We’re starting to realize the magic of the IoT today in some of the most basic aspects of our lives. While at Le Web, the audience was introduced to Lockitron, a clever system that combines a mobile app, a household device that mounts to existing door locks, and the Internet to open and close doors remotely. I immediately thought of a partnership with Airbnb to give renters peace of mind in controlling their rentals.
Nest is disrupting the long dormant world of thermostats by connecting mobile devices to existing thermostats (heating/air conditioning) with the simplicity and elegance of an iPod. But it’s more than controlling energy and temperatures remotely, Nest learns and begins to adapt without input.
Square’s Jack Dorsey has disrupted the age old world of payment systems by transforming mobile devices into cash registers, connecting money, data, and the net into one frictionless transaction. It’s the data part that represents something so much more however. In that regard, Dorsey sees the real value beyond the transaction—where the swipe and the receipt ultimately become a communication medium. In his view, payments represent “a necessary transaction” to create a channel where merchants learn more about individual consumers and equally, consumers learn more about their behavior.
The Convergence of People, Devices, Data and the Net
When I marvel at the future of the Internet of Things, I can’t help but think about another often shared idea from McLuhan that, “the medium is the message.”
There’s more to smart appliances and devices than utility or remotely controlling our surroundings. The underlying current of this powerful information exchange are the experiences that surround and emanate from each transaction.
What if the medium wasn’t just the device, the medium was us?