While dealing with the Internet of Things (IoT) and its opportunities I started asking myself if the IoT will affect humanity more than just giving the industries new possibilities to sell more (semi-smart) products and ultimately to increase their profits.

As some of you may know, by 2020 it is assumed that nearly 50 billion Internet-connected devices will form the Internet of everything.
An enormous network of unimaginable scope and potential is developing and it is on us to guide it into the right direction.
The status quo of the society — consumption relationship not only but also in relation to Internet of Things products reminds me of a famous quotation:

„We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have
to impress people we don’t like.”
— Dave Ramsey

At least two of the three facts Ramsey stated, fit fairly well to the situation I am currently observing in society.
Not thoroughly elaborated products are thrown on the market just to get one piece of the IoT pie. Delight your day by checking out some of these great inventions here:

Before thinking about concepts that go far behind smart refrigerators and toasters, people are aiming to make fast profit. I am asking you to take a step back and to imagine a world, in which the future of the IoT has more global and sustainable goals.

Below I am going to discuss how IoT concepts and ideas could be useful to support developing countries.

Old problems, new chances

I am aware that to comprehend conflicts and problems of developing countries I need much deeper insights into their political, social and economical structures.

During my research I found out that many of the poorest countries in the world even have high deposits of natural resources. [1]
And that’s where I start to wonder. But for reasons such as corruption and lack of fair allocation of those resources, countries like Nigeria, Sierra Leone or Liberia fail to develop positively.

Places where small groups of elites rule in corruptive systems, profits become a burden for human rights, investments in infrastructure and education. The proceeds are wasted for private gain and militarization.

In general, natural resources provide a great potential for a positive development. Accordingly, it seems that the allocation of resources is a problem that affects humanity in several ways.

In an economical context, the allocation problem describes how lean resources have to be distributed to achieve an ideal result for welfare. [2]

The more efficient resources are allocated, the wealthier a society gets.

Luckily, resource allocation is predicted to be one of IoT’s strengths.
Considering the example of electricity and electric devices, we are able to get an idea of how an IoT based resource allocation could work.

If every device would know about its electricity demand (or whatever resource) at a given time, it could trade its capacities to other devices in times of lower consumption. In return, the specific device is benefited with cryptocurrency (a currency like bit coin) based (micro-) payments. Through a constant negotiation about resources, the pricing would eventually reach an efficient level and be optimized in real time.
In a multi-player system, players that get nothing (because others bid more) are compensated by the ones who won the bid.
From the previously described trade, a win-win situation emerges. Additionally, the same would work out for CPU power and many other things as well.

The value for developing countries would be that financial and medical aid and their natural resources could be distributed in a more efficient way. People would be able to participate better on the worlds market.

Based on the fact that over 650 million people in Africa are already using mobile phones and Africa is leading in the field of mobile financial transaction many people could participate in this new system of resource allocation. [3]
The whole economy of one region would profit by a high number of participating people.
As mentioned above, mobile phones already have a big impact on society in Africa. People now have access to badly needed information like actual market prices for their goods etc.

Use Case

Maybe it helps you to get the idea by thinking about the allocation of limited medical resources. The application of an algorithm that trades medical resources by only ethically appropriate criteria would result in an equitable distribution without wasting resources. These criteria include urgency of need, duration of benefit, likelihood of benefit etc. [4]

In my opinion, the IoT could work best if disconnected from centralized organizations. No directing lobbies, no profit driven decisions. The wealth of a human should be the central part of the decision making process.

Cryptocurrencies would benefit such a new system. It enables transactions on a very low fee over a decentralized global network without the need of centralized institutions like governments or banks.

But speaking of a new system, Medium member @cjdew predicts a shift away from a centralized capitalistic system in his article „Post-Capitalism: Rise of the Collaborative fostered by current disruptive technologies like cryptocurrencies, 3D printers and a decentralized IoT structure. [5]
His ideas could be adapted even to the poorest parts of the world. By providing people with the knowledge about manufacturing with 3D printers or a distribution network via drones, their life could change dramatically.

Needless to say, it is a long way down the road. Especially when having corruptive systems and small groups of harsh leaders in mind. However, in my opinion, the Internet of Things with its characteristics will offer the chance to skip several stages of development and turn weaknesses like lack of institutional structures (banks, governments) into strengths.


I invoke taking a step back to think about sustainable concepts for the Internet of Things with the potential to influence our humanity positively. Current methods and concepts could already be assigned to support developing countries. When we are focusing on what is really important for humanity we will be able to develop even smarter, more sustainable concepts. We have to keep in mind that short-term profits will increase the gap between rich and poor. Long-term goals usually do not.

Further reading
Democratisation of production