The term, “Internet of Things” (IoT), has blown up in the past year. Due to its relative infancy, the term doesn’t have a common definition. But the gist is this: Uniquely identifiable, connected devices. Everywhere.
These “internethings” are increasingly common in the home. Smart locks, light dimmers, proximity sensors, thermostats, fire alarms and cameras are all a part of the new “connected home.” And it is becoming big business. Recently Google purchased Nest Labs, maker of the popular Nest Learning Thermostat, for whopping $3.2 billion.
CES 2014 brought us move connected devices: watches, fitness trackers, baby monitors, doorbells, pet feeders, child trackers and even toothbrushes. While this list may sound unnecessary, the IoT was also highlighted at CES by tech heavyweights Cisco, Intel and Qualcomm.
It is an exciting time for this trend. But like all things new, there are inevitably challenges.
Imagine if your baby monitor could detect cold temperatures and automatically turn up the heat on your thermostat. To make this scenario a reality, there needs to be common standards for connecting these endpoints. Currently, most devices exist in their own bubble, utilizing a proprietary hub, data cloud or mobile application for connectivity. Fear not; efforts to unify devices have begun by the likes of AllSeen, Sen.se, Xively and even Wolfram.
What if your “Smart” TV or Fridge was hacked and started sending spam? That may sounds crazy, but it just happened. Like most early to market technology, current devices have less than stellar security. Many can be accessed via simple web interfaces or utilize insecure internet protocols. To prevent an army of “thingbots” spreading viruses or hackers turning off our lights just for kicks we may need to isolate devices from the internet with software like AllJoyn. Bottom line, security has to get better for widespread adoption to continue.
Why do I need a smart watch? What’s the big deal with a learning thermostat? Sure, connected products have a purpose at the simplest level: adjust my heat, feed my cat, unlock my door. But for the IoT to really hit its stride the hardware must solve big problems. Currently, the devices are independent little helpers that appear to exist just because they can. They need to do more: affect environmental change, drastically improve our health or save invaluable time in our day. When connected “things” reach that higher level of purpose, the “Thingolution” will be unstoppable.