It’s official: The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is at the peak of the hype cycle. It only took 15 years to get to this point, considering the term was first coined in 1999. But the IoT of today is quite different from initial thrust which was in commercial and industrial applications. Today, consumer applications lead the hype. IoT, or IoE (as in Everything), is now highly associated with gadgets in the mind of the general public. Gadgets are what whip up talk, excitement and hype. Tracking assets or performance of industrial machines makes for a dull discussion (unless that’s your business!), but everyone loves to talk about what the soon to be released Apple and Microsoft watches may do. All the hype makes me wonder how would one tell what will prove to be a fad and what will stick? What determines the staying power and commercial success of a device? Anyone dares to predict? Wasn’t it IBM’s Thomas Watson who said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”? And, if you say that was in 1943, then how about DEC’s Ken Olson statement some 34 years later that “there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home!”
Anyway, there are no simple answers or easy predictions as it is hard to tell how technology will evolve and especially hard as consumer behaviors can go against logic on which many theories are based like economic utility so as behavioral and emotional aspects completely skew outcomes, aspects that marketers work hard to evoke! So some will stick and some will disappear. But more fundamental questions get raised: how will IoT gadgets impact established companies selling similar non-connected products?
Let’s look at a few gadgets…
The HAPIfork: it helps you monitor and track your eating habits. Eating too fast for your own good? It will let you know!
The egg minder: the smart egg tray that will tell you how many eggs you have, which are the oldest, and when they’re going bad?
The vessyl cup: it will tell you what you are drinking and track your intake. Very high-tech cup with cute functions. It will also charge wirelessly.
Smart propane tank gauge: a sensor that will tell you the state of your propane tank – from anywhere. Made by Quirky which GE recently acquired.
Smart piggy bank: another Quirky product… will allow you to wirelessly track your (or rather your kid’s) savings. It will also tell you if somebody moved it! (If kids can use the technology to track their smart piggy bank, I think I’d rather get them a real bank account.)
Smart insoles: These Bluetooth enabled insoles count your steps and calories burnt and allows you to set fitness goals and track them. It also will alert you that your phone is not close. (I wonder why wireless charging is not possible… sounds like too much pain for information I can get in other ways.)
Intelligent slow cooker: Crockpot with Wi-Fi integrated with Belkin’s WeMo platform so you can control the slow cooker remotely. It’s runs at about $130 or $70 premium over a dumb Crockpot.
The smart garbage bin: will send an alert when it’s full and time for it to be emptied, so collection runs can be optimized.
The smart sock: This is an intimate ‘thing.’ If the insoles are not for you, perhaps you can try the socks. Socks infused with proprietary 100% textile sensors. They are paired with a Bluetooth Smart detachable anklet that provides step counting, speed, calories, altitude and distance tracking. (I wonder how many washings they’ll last.)
Many more devices are now, or will soon be the market. Irrespective, one thing is essential: ease of use, simplicity and practicality will be critical. Consumer would pay more to make a statement, but functionality has to be present. The interconnectivity factor where the value of a device is linked to that of another device will be high. In the end, some ‘things’ will get traction, some will disappear, and many may get re-purposed from consumer to industrial applications. Whatever the case, we will be hearing much about IoT in the years ahead.