The “Internet of Useless Things” or IuT Is Everywhere. Not Every Player Has a Plan.

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The CES is a good one this year. Everywhere is IoT. And honestly I am little tired of hearing IoT or “Internet of Things” which is estimated to become a $7 trillion industry where thermometers, clocks, garbage cans, toilets, washing machines, watches, smart phones, fridges, baby monitors, garage doors and coffee makers are all connected digitally, allowing seamless interactions and smart living for us. Sensors are cheap and can be deployed everywhere collecting data, unnoticed. 

Data on how you move around in your home or office, in the gym, on bike around your community, in a car, in public transit etc. How much water and electricity you use, and when; how much garbage you produce and dispose. And these reams and reams of information will make everyone of us overloaded with big data.

The biggest opportunity is Data Spam Management (just invented an industry). These data streams will drive us crazy eventually if we don’t know how to use them. Might as well turn all of them off. For those who are afraid of cookies that track them on line, it is going to get worse and much worse. When it comes to monitoring individuals and collecting details about their lives, privacy is over. Many people are still uncomfortable and remain to having their data tracked and analyzed. It is hard to define what privacy means in the world of big data. Imagine how much one can find out about you by going through you trash, in this case, your digital trash from sensors and devices that surround you 24 hours.

The world of hyper-connectivity is creating many opportunities for us and also is close to achieving the top of a hype cycle. Perhaps it itself is a recycled product of formerly known as the Smart Home or Smart Appliances. 90% of new products are merely solutions looking for problems and there are no unmet needs. Nest is a lucky case and there are not that many lucky cases for people to hit the Jackpot. When people enter this industry, they first need to understand the emerging behaviour as a result of big data and what does it mean to have them. And how it can shape our behaviour? And what is the behavioural economics at work? What industry will it power up and who will benefit from it? Who owns the data gateway? I can go on and on for a day.

I am not an early adopter but I buy all these tech junks for my friends to try. I am really not interested in the thermostat. I am not interested in an Internet enabled door lock and for this one, I am sure I will be the last adopter. To create devices that can connect is easy and anyone can enable any objects with some kind of connectivity, be it Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. But it takes some strategy to make sure you have a real customer value proposition.

The business opportunities for IoT are undeniable, but most of the visions out there were either overly simplistic or flawed and ultimately unworkable. The number of connected devices is expected to grow 18% each year for the next seven years and people couldn’t wait to have their “things” get connected. Beyond the hype, most will question the value and will understand the total costs of ownership. Buying an old fashion clock, toilet or door lock is easy. We can be sure that they will not break (most of the time) and need very little maintenance. But when these become electronics, it will be a very different game. There is a cost to maintenance (making sure they remain connected and receive update etc.) and they need to be replaced in a shorter period as technology moves fast. Way faster than they redesign your toilet or old fashion thermostat. The true value comes from larger companies designing integrated architecture so the orchestration of these appliances, large and small, can create a new level of convenience and delight. The opportunities are not for everyone. The rest are just playing in the IuT game.

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