Why IoT Hasn’t Already Happened

It can get frustrating to look at a technology that’s so ripe to change the world and not see anything major appear to happen

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To read the original version of this blog, which was published on IoT Design, click here.

It can get frustrating to look at a technology that’s so ripe to change the world and not see anything major appear to happen. Many of us are in this situation with IoT. We know, without a doubt, that integrated networks of sensors coupled with actuators, data federation, big-data analytics, and fast autonomous decision-making will change the world. So why hasn’t it already happened when all the pieces are present and ready to go?

This isn’t an uncommon situation in technology. Like a supersaturated fluid, IoT is just waiting for a nucleation site to crystallize around. We saw the same phenomena with “Web 2.0” about a decade ago. Though the technology to support it was arguably in place a decade earlier, Web 2.0 was all talk and hype for what seemed like a very long time, from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. Then all of a sudden we got Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other forms of user-generated content in quick succession.

I expect the same thing will happen in IoT. Today, there are indeed some daunting technical problems to overcome: the proliferation of incompatible front-end device connection protocols, the provisioning and management of billions of intelligent endpoints, low-cost/low-volume data transmission options, and business models – always the key consideration.

But all these technical and business problems are solvable; indeed, companies exist with solutions to them today. The big gap in IoT right now is the killer app. In the Web 2.0 era, Facebook and other social media became so engrossing that people routinely walked into lampposts or had traffic accidents because they couldn’t tear their eyes away from their mobile screens. In today’s IoT world, intelligent light switches, color-shifting light bulbs, and connected home appliances, sexy as they might be to technologists like us, aren’t in the same league. It’s the applications, not the technology, that’s missing.

Progress in technology, like any evolutionary process, tends to occur as a punctuated equilibrium rather than in a steady progression. That is, things tend to stay the same way for a seemingly long time, and then suddenly shift to a new paradigm. I think we’ll see the same with IoT. The development of a compelling application – the “Facebook analog” for the Internet of Things – will be what drives the rapid adoption of this new technology. In the meantime, we can all continue to perfect the technology, and ready ourselves to hop on the bandwagon as it approaches. Unless you happen to be the one with the killer app idea.

With over 30 years of software development experience, Jim Walsh brings diverse technology management capabilities to GlobalLogic. As Chief Technology Officer, Jim is responsible for leading GlobalLogic’s horizontal technology practices, technical advisory services, and solution accelerator initiatives. Jim earned his B.A. in Physics and Math from Harvard College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Physics from Duke University. He is also a frequent speaker and blogger on technical subjects and distributed software development best practices.

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