There’s been a lot of discussion about Cloud, be it Hybrid or Full. A lot of vendor marketing chatter about “Big Data” and things like Hadoop Cubes. And a lot of hype and noise about the “Internet of Things (IOT)”.
But I personally think that the next big thing is a consolidation of all three of these technologies, and then an overlay over all of it. The beauty of the Internet of Things is not so much that you can turn a light on or off remotely, but the amalgamation and summarisation of all these events into a data source that can be reported on. To be mined and and detailed in ways we haven’t yet considered. And a side aspect of this is the monitoring and reporting on the health of the IOT devices – I don’t think people will be overly concerned that a Smart TV turned on at a certain time but you might be concerned if a IOT-connected refrigerator goes offline, along with the hundreds of dollars of cold storage goods.
However, an event like a TV turning on or a motion sensor triggering could be of interest if it occurs outside of a baseline time scale. For example, if you’re not expecting movement or activity perhaps you want to be alerted. Or it might just be that your pets have figured out how to tune in to The Discovery Channel.
It is the consolidation and intelligence that can be applied to these IoT data sets that will bring us all closer to the ‘intelligent’ or ‘self-reactive’ home and businesses of the future. It’s not going to be “The Jetsons” but it’s a start.
I personally believe that IoT has the potential to deliver incredible benefits, not just for the individual but for the community at large. I just don’t think we’ve quite hit the tipping point, from a cost or usefulness factor, for IoT to be perceived as another gimmick by the general public.
In several home-technology / media server forums I’ve been a member of, there has been a semi-joking reference to the WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor – a low WAF indicates a `tolerance’ for the technology invading the home, whereas a high WAF means it is being actively used. And I think a similar “acceptance factor” could be applied to IoT; yes it’s cute to be able to turn your lights on and off from your phone, but how does it actually help me?
There’s two things that I feel are holding IoT back:
1) A consistent infrastructure to glue the APIs and presentation information together
2) A consistent reporting / analysis / monitoring infrastructure.
Services like IFTTT and Zapier go some way to deal with (1), but its not drag/drop, not easily configurable for Joe or Josephine Random, not intuitive to generate something useful. Things like “When one of my registered Wifi-devices joins the wireless network, turn on the lights, open the blinds and set the airconditioning to 22deg Celsius”. Things like “When this Bluetooth device approaches an egress door, trigger a camera, do face recognition and unlock the door”. Or things that economically make sense like “If no sensors detect activity in a room, turn off the lights, close the blinds, and close the airconditioning vents in that zone”.
It is in (2) that IoT would really come to its strengths from a community perspective. Take a look at wunderground.com and you can see data being freely presented from Personal Weather stations across the world. This represents a massive data set of cumulative and historical datapoints for weather research, for both forecasting but more importantly – alerting. Information such as wind speed and direction or rainfall could be inputs to an infrastructure model to fine tune the prediction of catastrophic weather events, or to pre-emptively alert for the likelihood of flooding. It could trigger the on-demand activation of additional emergency personnel, or even something as capitalistic as getting more Uber drivers available.
Knowing the when and where of resource provision allows for better economic decisions to be made. Not just by forecasting or trends, but via the actual anonymised, privacy-protected live data. Take power generation as an example – it is costly in both economic and environmental terms. A home-based solar electricity system could make `intelligent’ decisions as to how much power it could effectively sell-off to the grid, determined by actual live usage data from the IoT power monitoring system, the feedback from the IoT interface on the power self-storage battery array, the sensor information on residency (who’s actually at home), the weather conditions, and whatever other goodies we can come up with. Multiply that by however many homes have solar-generation capability, and provide that information to the power-grid companies who can then make better decisions as to when or if they can spin up/spin down power generation capacity. It is a win-win for both the individual and the provider.
And I will highlight and reiterate this – anonymised AND privacy-protected. We don’t need another way for additional targeted advertising, or invasion of our homes. IoT, even at this early stage of adoption, needs to ensure that adopters get to choose what information is shared, and to whom. And what the impact of that choice is, economically or otherwise. Maybe this is a business opportunity – to financially incentivise IoT adopters to publish their IoT data, and then on-sell that to the highest bidder. Or maybe this is already happening and IoT adopters don’t have a say in it just yet..
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen?