Growing up I remember the long pending arrival of televisions that could hang on your walls. It seemed like a marketing promise that never came to fruition. A 1954 Popular Mechanics article (no, I’m not that old) may have been one of the first sources to discuss the potential for flat TVs to show up in homes as early as 1964. Clearly this did not happen. In fact, it took almost 50 years before the consumer electronics industry finally delivered on the promise.
In a 2009 RFID Journal article, Kevin Ashton claimed credit for coining the “Internet of Things” term back in 1999. The Internet of Things represents a more autonomous operation of connected devices without the limited time, attention and accuracy of human intervention. It extends the internet beyond machines manipulated by people, and allows systems to seamlessly gather inputs, analyze data, provide notifications, and modify outputs.
Here we are again. We see the vision, we understand the potential, and yet we continue to wait for something we can stick on our walls. While the technologies and standards are constantly evolving to advance the IoT, they are no longer an entry barrier. Don’t get me wrong, there are internet thingies today, just like there were HDTV sets in the nineties. But it feels like these devices and applications are for hobbyists, early adopters and techno-geeks.
So what’s stopping us? I believe it is the makers of internet things, the device OEMs. We are still clinging to the proprietary closed systems of the past. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Why would we move from our comfortable walled gardens that marry our customers to us, into a competitive and collaborative environment that allows our customers more vendor agility? We won’t. The path needs to be forged by the brave new upstarts that don’t have the ballast of legacy products, and then taken by the fast followers who recognize the shift. At some point the industry will tip.
We customers and consumers also play a part in this. It’s our requirements, decisions and dollars that pull the market. Are we continuing to invest in the technologies of the past, or are we doing our part to move the Internet of Things from vision to reality? Let’s buy that thing, stick it on the wall, and enable it to communicate across the interconnected network known as the internet. Then we can pop some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the movie.