50 billion connections in 2020? We are heading there, yes. The biggest chunk of the connectivity pie will come from connecting things to the internet that are not connected today. Look around your office or living room and do a count of the things destined to become connected. But if we want to connect all these things and actually benefit from it, we need to do at least 4 things better in the near future.
1. Bring down prices
If IoT needs to scale , the devices need to be cheap enough to replace the “dumb” devices they’re replacing. Why pay 100 euros for 3 connected lightbulbs, if I can buy about 50 led-lights for that amount of money. This could be a problem for a few years to come because If the devices are cheap, the businesses that make them need sources of revenue beyond the product itself. But the cost of supporting and serving billions of smart devices will be substantial.
2. Stay valuable
I replace my smartphone every two years or so. I so far never replaced my doorknob or thermostat. IoT companies need to figure out how their devices will last or how they will be updated regularly without substantial cost.
Also, connected devices must offer more than just connectivity. So far connectivity is quite similar to using your smartphone to control stuff. It should become much more about leveraging data to improve people’s lives and the efficiency of their businesses.
3. Speak the same language
I want a android-based Motorola 360 smartwatch to accompany my iPhone 5s. Not happening. The same principle is working in the IoT-space: most of the Internet of Things has been built on different wireless protocols, plus most devices live inside of their own (branded) ecosystem. So far, there is no unifying language available today that allows them to speak to each other and work together.
4. Fix security /privacy
These are private devices and they could reveal a lot about our habits and patterns of living. At the annual Black Hat security conference last August, it was clear that the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is extremely susceptible to attack by exposing 13 previously unknown vulnerabilities in home Wi-Fi routers and network storage systems, the core infrastructure used by “smart” devices. Your fridge could become a spam bot.
This could mean that private data will be monitored and sold without your knowledge. As the IoT expands, this data will become even more personal and will include health data, location data and so on. The systems to fix this seems broken due to a lack of incentives.
One thing to add to the list maybe? Paul Brody, vice president for IBM Global Business Services, thinks we might need to rethink the entire infrastructure and is looking towards Bitcoin’s Blockchain for inspiration. Interesting read.