The Internet of Things is still a thing. IoT is one of those perennial technologies on the horizon that has been around for almost 20 years. And while many companies have built significant IoT businesses, the grand vision still seems far away.
Several years ago we wrote about what an IoT mess is, in that article we pointed out that there would never be one thing we could point to and say is IoT, different from the regular internet. So we are sensitive to how many people are suffering from IoT-related fatigue. Many things are connected without us seeing any significant change in the world. But that doesn’t mean IoT won’t be important.
Guest author Jonathan Goldberg is the founder of D2D Advisory, a cross-functional consulting firm. Jonathan has developed growth strategies and alliances for companies in the mobile, network, gaming and software industries.
Having lived in the IoT world for many years, we firmly believe that there are two things that mean IoT will be important in ways that we are only just beginning to understand.
The first is that the IoT will take longer to emerge than people have really realized. Build a new phone and it comes with connectivity, but how do you connect things that aren’t new?
Upgrading is tedious and expensive and only affects a small fraction of devices. This indicates that things like washing machines, light switches and vending machines will not be connected until they are replaced. Washing machines can last twenty years, and we have circuit breakers in our house that originate from the electrification of the house. Like we said, it’s messy and gradual, but it’s definitely happening.
The other factor is that the IoT is much, much bigger than people think. The internet is full of predictions for 50 billion connected objects, or 200 billion. These numbers are both important and irrelevant. Most of the objects in these forecasts are electronic devices – computers, phones, cameras, etc. These things do not need a brand new Internet to connect to and are part of the progressive growth of IoT that we live in. potential for things , that are not electronic, that may not even be electric or powered.
The market for letters and packages is about 90 billion units, tools about 100 billion, bottles and cans about 500 billion. And these numbers are PER YEAR. The world is flooded with things and objects. For many of them, the ability to connect to the Internet could be useful. We could find them, track their use, find new ways to share them.
In short, if we could connect them, we could apply software tools to them, and we should all know that can be incredibly useful. The true IoT market will be measured in trillions, not billions.
The challenge here is less about adoption time and more about finances. Connecting all these things requires very cheap, really cheap components. We were prompted to write this article by this report on the invention of $0.01 flexible plastic processors.
We will also need ways to connect these things, Wiliot now sells batteryless Bluetooth beacons and one day these will also be priced in cents. We will also need a connection network and that is also being built. In short, the idea of connecting all these things is close, almost tangible today.
As we said, connecting all these things brings enormous economic and social value. Better ways to find recyclables, better sharing with more location information, real-time usage data. The list goes on. That said, it also carries significant risks. All those Apple AirTags used to track ex-spouses, not to mention the massive surveillance networks being built in places like China (one of the main uses for IoT is “Smart Cities”).
As with any new technology, we will need to develop ways to capture this potential, as it is already very close.