I just read the GigaOm research report on the Internet of Things: a market landscape. It is very good and has lots in it that made me think. I particularly appreciated its business and efficiency focus. It left out some things that I’m looking for: 1 Context, 2 Local Clouds and 3 Failsafe. This is a little snip from the report referring to the Things themselves.
An internet of things market discussion would not be complete without considering things themselves. The consumer space represents a new set of opport
Health monitoring devices and associated online tools, such as Fitbit (see disclosure) for general health monitoring and Corventis, a wireless cardiac monitor
Household device monitoring including Supermechanical’s Twine and SmartThings, which raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter
Environmental monitoring tools such as the Netatmo weather station for meteorological data or the Nest intelligent thermostat, which learns the heating properties of a home and controls the boiler accordingly
Tracking tools including the Tractive pet tracker and Omnilink for tracking cars, offenders, and a variety of assets
Power management and control including Belkin’s WeMo, Ninja Blocks, and the Revolv (formerly Mobiplug) hub. These enable devices to be controlled from a central point
Entertainment things, such as the just-for-fun Bubblino, a device that blows bubbles when certain keywords appear on Twitter
What I find a little troubling is the ongoing focus on efficiency, tracking, big data. Look at the list above and see the focus on tracking and monitoring. A big hive mindset appears to be the desire when the possibility still exists that millions of new little ecosystems could emerge. Their existence requires things to have both an understanding and local capabilities. I’d like to see a world where “Things” are empowering rather than “controlling” or “tracking”. That’s perhaps not likely in the short-term as both P2P and real personal ownership seems out of the question.
1. Context: A Things first question must be context. Otherwise in this future world we will always be interrupted, be asked for permissions, or referred someplace else. Things should make new services disappear, to happen in the background perhaps with our knowledge and yet without intrusion. What that means is the first question a “Thing” must ask is basically “What the heck do you want?” This is more important than the identity of the person or the device asking (a “Who are you?”).
2. Local Clouds: I worry that my Lockitron will not be secure and my house could be breached by a stranger. Today we put our trust in centralized systems to manage our smart homes. In many cases, the item then becomes much more interesting. Still is there not a role for identifying when all the objects in your home or environment have their own Personal Clouds? Does the cloud around my fridge have to belong to Whirlpool or Samsung? Or should it just belong to my fridge? We have a similar problem with the black box in cars. Many want the data it could bring; parking, insurance, service, ride-share, traffic-management and more. Yet who controls this Cloud and how many boxes should the car actually have. In other words do Things require clearing houses of a sort. Should I have the power to decide how my things broker information?
3. Failsafe: While the report recognizes the increasing security element and what happens when a network of things goes down, it does not explore mesh and self-healing networks in detail. It brushes past real P2P networks as I believe the belief for many is the money is in the big data. In this regard, the market has a “Nest” focus which short-term makes sense as standards are missing or non-exisitent. However, the best example of Failsafe is the Autonomous Vehicle. Many think and confuse this with the “connected car”. They are not the same. The failsafe for an Autonomous vehicle is it must get you home even if every network is down. It cannot rely on others as it may also be the only autonomous vehicle on the road. This also may make it an interesting study for real P2P networks and new forms of trust and identification could emerge.
My recommendation is to turn the above chart into thinking about strategic intent. This is a classic technical mapping when many of these technologies will come into play in the market place. What’s missing is a benefit statement for each one. Any combination of adding these functionalities to a business may evolve new benefits for customers. (Example when light color (Philips Hue)is infinitely variable – changing room colors isn’t a repaint). Smart companies are focused on discovering the benefits.
I also remain concerned that so much around the IoT does not consider the people equation enough. We see a new product and we think wow that is cool. Example Lockitron will unlock to me without a key. It will also send “keys” to others. Then how often will I really use that capability (soon I will let you know)? Yet when keys disappear from cars (smartphone please quick) then carrying the house key also becomes a pain. Still so far we are really experimenting. What matters as both researcher and experimenter is considering how these “things” affect you.
My current favorite recommendation remains buy a Philips Hue light set and then begin experimenting in your home. For things to take off they have to really create a smarter better experience. Hue manages to do this on many levels. It can be it’s own local cloud or you can connect and manage it more broadly which really extends its capabilities. I’ve seen apps that play hue bulbs to music, accept SMS and other notification updates and much more. I expect I will soon be able to tie it via IFTTT to opening a door etc. Yet Hue doesn’t really know how to deal with a family, and isn’t really sensitive enough to act room by room even if it understood who’s setting got priority.