“Dumb” objects, including bikes, could bring about a new boom in IoT growth

The Next IoT Boom Could Come from an Unexpected Source: “Dumb” Objects

The Internet of Things is about to take off. According to BI Intelligence, 24 billion IoT devices* will be connected to the Internet in 2020, up from 10 billion last year. As radical as it may seem, I think that’s thinking too small.

Most of the analyst predictions about IoT include enterprise applications, such as fleet management, building energy automation and smart warehousing, as well as connected consumer devices, such as fitness bands, cameras and alarms. What’s not typically included: electronics and gadgets that aren’t yet connected to the Internet, such as TV remote controls, power tools and drones. What else is missing? Billions more “dumb” objects that don’t even have batteries, such as keys, jackets and your bike.

Why would anyone want a connected bike? Smart location.

Q: What is smart location?
A: It’s the combination of sensors, mapping software, wireless and GPS protocols, smartphone apps, and network effects that give people and businesses the ability to always know where their things are.

Smart location solves real problems for real people. It saves people time and reduces stress by helping them find things they have lost and recover things that have been stolen. Smart location is what keeps you from losing your cool when you are already late for work and you can’t remember where you left your keys. It’s the technology that gives you peace of mind when the airline loses your luggage yet again. And it’s the sleuth that helps the police track down your stolen bike at a pawn shop across town.

Today a number of smart location devices can help you manage those unfortunate events (including one sold by my company). Such devices are small, inexpensive and attach to things via a keychain or double-sided tape. Once you stick a smart location device onto something else, that thing becomes connected to the network. It’s instant IoT.

In the not-too-distant future, other companies will make it easier to find their products by building smart location technology directly into their products when they manufacture them. You won’t need to attach a smart location device to the outside anymore because the technology will already be inside the product.

Everyone has something they don’t want to lose. More than 1.5 billion people own smartphones. Pretty much everyone who owns a smartphone also owns at least one set of keys. Most people also carry a wallet, backpack or purse. Some 67 million people own a bicycle. At least 300,000 Americans own drones, and there could be as many as 7 million of them flying over our skies by 2020. Imagine if each and every one of those items could never be lost or stolen again.

Smart Location can also help you keep track of the things you want to share with others.

Companies such as Airbnb, Uber, GetAround and Turo have helped create a new way of life called the sharing economy. This movement includes people who open up their homes and cars to strangers in order to earn money and build a sense of community. It also includes sites such as RenttheRunway and Grover, which encourage people to borrow instead of buy.

If the sharing economy joins forces with smart location, the duo could become a multiplier for IoT. Let’s pretend you bought a tent for your upcoming camping trip. Would you consider lending it to a friend if you knew you would get it back? How about renting it for $50 to a neighbor through Craigslist or Nextdoor on the weekends you’re not planning to use it?

What else would you be willing to share if you could easily pinpoint its location? How about an evening bag? Power tools? Your bike?

Lots of us own things we hardly ever use. Instead of collecting dust in your closet or garage, you could rent them out to collect a little income — and give a boost to the IoT.

*this figure is in addition to 10 billion computing devices, such as laptops and tablets