The IoT is More Than Just Internet and Things
January 13, 2017
Common wisdom says the Internet of Things (IOT) happens when you glue the internet onto a thing. Internet plus refrigerator equals IoT! Internet plus light bulb equals IoT! Internet plus vacuum cleaner equals IoT!
If that's all there is to IoT, then we've been doing it for years. The only novelty is the rapidly dropping price of WIFI support and cheap computing. For less than a hundred dollars US, any piece of electronic junk can be connected to the internet and provided with a full-blown Linux operating system. That's cute and fun, but what's the point?
Is IoT an increase in functionality?
If you look beyond the hype and noise, you'll see the undercurrents of big change. Remember Amara's law: "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." Take a minute to look forward to when IoT actually becomes useful.
Here are four interesting trends.
- Things will stop using the internet. We humans rely on cables and ethernet and TCP/IP to get our data fix. It's a system that works because it's designed to tolerate insensitive data clods like you and me. It uses redundancy to make up for our clumsy attempts at manipulating data. Because of that, it's massively inefficient. We don't bother to learn our MAC address and certainly don't care about any subnet address. The ethernet handles that for us because we're too lazy to do so. Things, on the other hand, are really good at that sort of detail. They can handle a more efficient method of exchanging data. In the near future, they will start using low-power, distributed, thing-to-thing networks. These will be faster, more fault tolerant, and more secure (eventually more secure). Things will only use the internet when they need to communicate with meat-space. Things will be talking behind our backs!
- The distinction between B2B and B2C IoT will dissolve. Things won't care if they are operating in a corporate warehouse or a condominium. Tasks like reading the ambient temperature and reporting it back to a database will use the same hardware in all instances. The information will be just as useful if it is being used to forecast weather, balance the city-wide power grid, or turning up the furnace. Companies with a business model based on collecting proprietary data might want to reconsider.
- IoT and Big Data will be two sides of the same coin. The number of sensors collecting data will increase exponentially. If you think twitter generates a lot of data (6,000 tweets per second!) wait until we've placed IoT sensors on every plant in your garden. Or every plant in a farmer's field. Big centralized mainframes won't keep up -- instead, we'll use edge computing the draw conclusions at the local level.
- IoT Security is a big deal. If your toaster is connected to the internet, then some miscreant is going to find a way to start it on fire. You've heard about ransomware locking up data on a computer. Wait till you get a phone call at work, demanding an immediate $1,000 ransom or the caller will cause your internet-connected oven to explode. This is something we need to deal with now.
That's a quick list, written from the perspective of near-term awareness. Amara tells us we're underestimating the long-term effects - but we can only wonder what those effects will be.