3 key hurdles hampering the Internet of Things

We explore three big issues that are keeping the internet of things from truly taking off.

Last fall I co-authored a post with Chris Curran — 12 Hurdles Hampering the Internet of Things — that sparked an energetic conversation over social networks. As the comments flooded in, we noticed that a lot of readers zeroed-in on three issues: the business case, standards, and privacy. In this post, we dive deeper into those three areas.

Building the business case

One executive said “I haven’t seen many sustainable business models in the IoT yet. What is the value being created and who will pay for it?!”

The business case depends on whose lens you are viewing it through. From a consumer perspective, the IoT is all about the passive collection of information to provide context and predictive services to improve life or offload the mundane.

From a business point of view, the IoT is about being proactive and not reactive. Through monitoring people, places, products and processes, you can begin to predict certain outcomes. The point is to take action before something goes wrong, optimize efficiencies, and shorten innovation cycles. But, to surveil everything would be cost-prohibitive and inefficient. Businesses need to conduct experiments to determine where to place sensors and why. For example, the logistics industry uses connected sensors to track shipments and to optimize routes. Remember that Machine to Machine (M2M) is really the IoT 1.0.

In the short term, businesses will derive more value from the IoT than consumers. Consumers are missing that killer app. Everything connected in a contextual way requires a lot of artificial intelligence and data intelligence that just isn’t there yet. (see the next section for reasons why) One of the first consumer areas we’ll see take off is the connected car. Cars will communicate to each other to prevent accidents and make the roads safer.

The emergence of standards will reveal the big(ger) data problem

The lack of standards was another reoccurring theme. “How do you see standards evolving in the present year or two?”, asked one reader.

In the next couple of years the big guys and the open source community will battle over who gets to set the standards. Who will win? That remains to be seen. Standards will emerge between the layers of the vendor ecosystem of enablers, engagers, enhancers, and embedders. But the struggle to set standards itself is an indication that IT is moving away from building and managing to assembling and orchestrating. Making all the connections is crucial for the IoT to work and doable, but it will take time. And, resolving the issue of standards will accelerate the real issue: how do we sift through all the data to make decisions? We need a way for useful bits of information to identify themselves or to almost become self-aware (and self-describing). The IoT will lead to considerable innovation in AI.

The possible privacy perils

One reader said, “I also think we are a long way from true data privacy and security on systems, getting there on all devices will take some time unless we have a disruptive invention in this space.”

Do I care if outside entities know when I turn my lights on, or change my thermostat? It depends on what is done with that information. What happens if intentions are innocent at first and the winds change? For example, my thermostat will never go above 68F because there is an energy shortage. My lights won’t turn on because curfew is 10:00 p.m., and I must be in bed. This thought might seem far-fetched right now, but it’s something we need to consider, no matter how uncomfortable.

Original article published here on March 25, 2015. Co-authored with Chris Curran.