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F EW DOUBT THE POTENTIAL
of the IoT, but the slower-than-expected growth may stem from some key challenges—3 of them, in fact—that are yet to be solved. Nevertheless, the IoT is dominating CES this year. The amazing IoT scenarios the boosters predict all depend on one thing: the nirvana of Network effect, wherein small changes at an individual level are harnessed for larger effect. The network effect benefits may be plentiful, but the three main barriers to IoT reaching it still look daunting. INTERNET OF THINGS
THE DAYS of the gmail
hack look quaint now that whole tranches of personal information get heisted from huge global retailers. Scare stories of computer viruses have been replaced by the truly terrifying prospect of having your computer held for ransom. That’s all digital ephemera. Losses like that don’t keep you out in the cold. Things get freakier when your house gets involved. Getting your house hacked could be a far more personal and consequential violation. Imagine coming home from work to find your house is locked down unless you pay some gang of cyber criminals an exorbitant fee! PRIVACY CONCERNS, TRUST ISSUES, AND CYBERSECURITY BARRIER 1
YOUR DEVICES CAN’T speak to
one another yet. They need to start. The “Works with nest” program is starting to bring other manufacturers together into a shared language, but that requires you to choose your car or washing machine based on its ability to speak nest. That’s not real interoperability. That will come when the sensor on your Nest that sees no internal motion can cross check to detect if your phone is on the wifi network to make sure you are actually out of the home. Armed with that information, the refrigerator slows down the cooling since it is unlikely to get opened and the Roomba vacuum starts cleaning the house. INTERNAL INTEROPERABILITY BARRIER 2
THINGS WILL GET INTERESTING when
the IoT starts interfacing with large- scale external systems. Right now, these individual, small-scale IoT networks are like the early computer systems—small, local networks that barely connected with one another. The internet brought external interoperability, and just look at what happened as a result. We’re at an inflection point with the IoT. Mobile phone carriers, for example, know population density and location. They could use that to increase the frequency of subway trains or buses—if only they were motivated and able to share. EXTERNAL INTEROPERABILITY BARRIER 3
PROFOUND though they may be,
those barriers can be overcome. It’s going to take two big developments: FIRST, we need a Switzerland-like platform allowing connected devices to communicate with one another, making collaboration easy and advantageous. SECOND, manufactures need rewards to encourage creation of devices that are more interoperable.