What the Internet of Things Means to You

In Denver, Colorado, Comcast has announced the launching of its Internet of Things network, which they are calling machineQ, in the next few months — it will then go live in eleven more cities.

The Motley Fool is finally advising its clients that investing in the Internet of Things is getting to be a good idea for those who want to see a quick turnover in profits.

MarketWatch has jumped on the bandwagon, as well — labeling the IoT industry ‘something to keep an eye on.’

And last month Forbes ran a detailed article on the White House American Technology Council’s deepening interest in and study of the Internet of Things.

So there’s plenty of interest right now in the IoT. Still, it’s not a term that brings instant recognition to most people outside of Silicon Valley and a few other high end financial and technological enclaves. Part of the problem, of course, is the psuedo-generic name ‘Internet of Things.’ Whoever was on Naming Duty the day that came up was asleep at the wheel. It’s not the most descriptive or concise terminology invented by the cyber sages in the past decade.

‘Thing’ is the kind of word that can have so many meanings, none of them very specific, that the average person cannot grasp just what it may mean. Dictionaries define the word ‘thing’ as, among other things — “Any item that a person either cannot or does not want to give a concrete name to” or  “A material object that is inanimate, and completely discrete from any form of common notice.” Which doesn’t do much to clear things up, does it?  As a descriptive word, as a noun, ‘thing’ remains an ambiguous and opaque term when clarity and specificity is wanted. A ‘thing’ can be a device, a manifestation of the physical world, or a plain everyday object. But unless there are specific nouns and adverbs included, it’s impossible to say just exactly what the ‘thing’ being mentioned is!

But the techies that apparently make the naming rules for such things have been enamored of the term ever since it was coined by a P&G marketer named Kevin Ashton back in the 90’s. So, like it or not, we are stuck with using the term “Internet of Things.”

Perhaps the best way to put it is that the Internet of Things mostly resembles all other great technology innovations in that it is built on intuition and insight — the insight that people are limited by their resources and their time when it comes to running and using technology. But since technology is becoming more and more of an essential part of our lives, at some point we have to let the technology start making the mundane, everyday decisions that are usually called ‘no-brainers’ but that take up so much time and effort, leaving us burned out and exhausted at the end of the day. In industries as varied as manufacturing to refrigeration, there are 1,000s of tasks that connected devices like those from Datawave Wireless are taking control of via IoT.

As Ashton himself has noted, the time humans have to spend on tracking deadlines and due dates could be put to much better use — so why not let the Internet of Things handle all that and spare workers and homebodies alike the time and effort?

Science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov had already dreamed up the concept of an Internet of Things long before Ashton glommed onto it in the 90’s. Their robots and space stations were so interconnected that they accidentally ‘came alive’ and began reacting to their surroundings and masters as sentient beings. And who can forget the cartoon series “The Jetsons” from the Hanna Barbera studios? Good old George Jetson did virtually nothing while his space car, his home, even his robot maid Rosie, foresaw his every need and wish. THAT is what the Internet of Things is all about!

This coming year looks to be the time when the IoT comes into its own. Already, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were a host of interactive and interconnected devices on display — everything from interconnected wearables that monitored your vitals and sent them to your doctor in real time to air conditioners that could be turned on and off remotely from miles away, so people could come home to a house already cooled to a comfortable temperature. It seems that every major industry and technology now recognizes the rising significance of the Internet of Things, and wants to start using it for product and service improvement and for customer impact.

To seal the deal, monolithic IBM has trumpeted the fact that they too are now on the IoT bandwagon. They will be ploughing over three billion greenbacks into IoT technology over the next four years in an effort to corner a small part of the interconnectivity market — which is where the smart seed money is now flowing to entrepreneurs who are not afraid to take this embryonic technology and concept for a wild ride into the cloud and beyond!

Google, Amazon, and Apple are all acquiring subsidiaries in the IoT field as well. Interconnected technology and devices can only help these Goliaths improve their bottom lines while raising efficiency and customer service.