The Internet of Things has a vision problem

internet of things 2015
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With the IoT, we desperately need a common vision of a tomorrow and a critical mass of folks to believe enough to make happen, writes columnist Rob Enderle.

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We’ve had a series of problems of late with core technology initiatives largely because we tend to get excited about the technology and not think through what an acceptable solution would be. For instance, we are still struggling with the problem of big data. We grew repositories and didn’t think through that it wasn’t the amount of data that was important, it was the decision support we could get from it.

This was most noticeable with the U.S. Security Services who, after 911, didn’t realize their primary problem was timely analysis and effective/timely response not data acquisition. As a result they spent billions increasing data collection and storage rather than improving analysis and timing, increasing PR problems (Snowden) while actually degrading their response time.  

[ Related: What will the Internet of Things be when it grows up? ]

With the Internet of Things (IoT) the problem starts with the name, which doesn’t convey a core value but a technical state (connected things) and focuses people again on quantity rather than quality. “Smart” was far better because it implied a solution that made things better as opposed to just made things different. A connected device isn’t inherently better than a disconnected device unless you somehow add intelligence or additional needed functionality. And as Chrysler showcased, just focusing on connectivity can be problematic.

Dell 1-5-10

Dell hosts an annual 1-5-10 meeting of folks ranging from analysts to journalists to large customers like GE connected to a particular technology or initiative. This year’s meeting was about IoT [Disclosure: Dell is a client of the author]. Basically, this is a Delphi like meeting where the attendees talk about what will change in one year, five years and eventually in 10 years. Dell captures this and then takes it back to their product folks as part of their strategy and funding effort for whatever group the meeting focuses on.

Focus on technology not benefits

One of the things that came through to me during this session, other than we seem to be on the third (or more) attempt to reinvent this wheel, is that we continue to focus on the technology and scope of work being done with IoT and not on the broad benefits or ideal user experience.   This goes right to the name, which came out of the Auto-ID center at MIT, and spoke to how, where everything was connected, our lives would massively change. In 2015 progress was documented by the number of devices that were connected online and Korea won with the U.S. coming in at a distant fourth. This is like measuring a hospital by the number of patents rather than how effective it is at curing people.  

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