The other day I participated in one of Cisco’s weekly Internet of things chats, ( #IoTchat ) and found it thought-provoking and worthwhile. The online chat in turn inspired me to do another “Things to Come” post. Some of this will be about the internet of things in the consumer realm, and some later posts will be about sensors, lack of standards, and other things, all of it will be somewhat master of the obvious to those in the know.
Several large players are positioning to make their products the leading edge or the “hub of hubs” for the consumer market of the internet of things. They include Home Depot (Wink,) Lowe’s (Iris,) Best Buy (Peq,) and Samsung has now bought the fan favorite, SmartThings – which is good news because Samsung’s “Smart TV” is certainly underwhelming and could use improvement. Samsung also bought a US Air Conditioning company (Quietside, ) which further demonstrates their strategic direction.
All of this looks good at the surface glance, but with the exception of SmartThings, none of it really plays well together. Interoperability will be key in the future. Consumers aren’t going to want a hundred little apps, one for each item, or even five “Swiss Army” apps – they will want whatever they buy to plug into their version of their control panel or dash, and they will want devices to interlace easily and transparently. So there’s a lot of hype, but somewhat flawed and problematic products out there.
Here’s where we are in the Gartner emerging technology hype cycle below is their graphic and here’s a link if you desire the detailed explanation of this latest curve (these Gartner reports are celebrating their 20th year. )
The early adopters have already hit that disillusionment curve, and it’s where I am at. The IoT has great potential but it’s not at the plateau of productivity yet (I think it’s actually a stair step progression versus a plateau, but more on that in a future post where I’ll talk about how some technology surpasses even the wildest hype after some time passes.)
Since I am disillusioned here is a list where the internet of things is really underwhelming me. Just a forewarning: some of this might get a wee bit on the rantish side,
Let’s start with a pet peeve: Clocks, Watches, or any other digital device including tablets, pc’s, phones, etc. that keep or use the time should all set themselves automatically every time they are first turned on, and periodically as they operate. The only users who should have to manually adjust anything should be that one or two percent minority who need to keep times from another zone, and not the normal users.
The devices should do this via internet to NIST atomic clocks, or from the local router, or via GPS triangulation, or by reading radio waves. It’s not that difficult for a clock to set itself on power up, and figure out what time zone it is in from GPS. Let’s make that a standard someone, anyone? We can leave the old, collectible analog devices for the OCD purist types to set themselves.
Weather stations are for the most part overpriced and plumbed to use antiquated LCD (!) display panels, some will talk to your PC via USB however… (can you detect the dripping sarcasm?)
Smart TV: I unhooked Frankenputer about a year ago when we bought our Samsung Smart TV LED flat panel, but after a year of trying out the Samsung apps built it I hooked the old Frankenputer back up. It streams much smoother, doesn’t glitch, is more controllable with mouse and keyboard, and produces better picture and sound. So a 6 year old core duo PC kicks ass on Samsung’s smart TV. That’s not surprising as most “Smart” devices use under-horsed CPU’s and not enough memory. That’s not just to save money, it also conserves energy / battery, but it doesn’t much sense for a Television, where streaming and HD video are required.
Thermostats : These are over priced, but everyone wants them once the price drops. Nest has great ideas, but the first thing they should be tackling is working with the aforementioned weather station, and adding things like humidifiers, air mixers, and whole house fans.
Refrigerators – the dream is that your fridge (or stove) inventories everything in your kitchen via RFID or other tag, and prepares your shopping list and lists of recipes that use the ingredients that you do have left. It could tie to the cooking channels, magazines, and local store home delivery services, and there’s huge potential there, but nothing comes close yet.
Home security and monitoring is the area where the IoT is the strongest, but that’s a given since much of that has previously been handled by remote services anyway – they have a leg up on other Smart Systems. That said, nothing combines it all in one good package yet, someone will take the lead here in the next few years.
Medical and health: again too many different services and devices that don’t play well together. See my previous post from 2011 here. While there are improvements, there’s still not a home health hub per se that unites and intelligently uses the data the devices collect.
Media sharing – this is a kludgeterfest of things that don’t play well together – getting videos, books, songs, and work docs between devices is getting better with cloud services, but….. every device wants you in their cloud, sharing their way, and none of the clouds interlace or work work well together. To get something moved there’s often too much poking, prodding, and head scratching to get it done. It’s very frustrating from a consumer standpoint right now — I wish someone would come up with a service or app that laced all the clouds together into one whole transparent personal cloth or cloud front. When it comes to that Google is winning overall, since Android is the most open and flexible at present. That said, I still have dropbox, Icloud, Amazon, the ambitiously named “Microsoft Onedrive,” Adobe, and probably some others.
When push comes to shove most of the cloud services are useless to me since none have enough space to contain my media. (I’m a photographer who shoots in RAW format, but even if I were shooting average Joe JPG’s at 30K pictures and a few thousand songs, I would still over run the space.
The opportunity is there for a hub or appliance, or just a “Home OS” that operates on a standard PC, but nobody’s fully filling the gap yet. It will happen however, but it’s going to be awhile before we have a home dashboard that includes it all. In future articles I will discuss some of the M2M opportunities, and how business has conquered a lot of IoT space in their realm, but not on the consumer front, already. We will also talk about the lack of standards, spectrum, and the rest of the limiting factors.