The Internet of Things (IoT) is Really Just “Things”
I know someone will likely toss a shoe my way but I don’t buy into the idea that the IoT is in itself a “novel” concept. With the forecast of IoT technologies topping exponential growth the hype has never been stronger. Recently, I walked into my local Home Depot and was greeted with a barrage of internet connected gizmos. Some of the devices useful, but most providing limited value to the consumer considering the cost. The problem with IoT is that is only a tool, not a business model. Many of the companies you see on display present valiant efforts of hardware products but are not based on providing a solid value proposition beyond their novelty. The bubble exists, and will retract to a sane level of connectivity, but why is the revolution occurring?
Much of the technology has been available since the 80s. What has changed however, is the market forces that allow IoT to flourish. Specifically, the cost the the internet infrastructure and the falling cost of microprocessor based systems due to chip integration. More recently, we have been seeing devices produced by companies like Atmel that provide both a fully functional 32 bit microcontroller coupled to a WIFI front-end. The Smart Direct chip provided by Atmel provides an M0 processor mashed together with a WiFi Subsystem (WiFi Direct).
In addition, the cost of internet access in the industrialized world is falling rapidly. This market force bringing the flow of information and data to the lowest form of computational hardware, the microprocessor.
What this means for the long-term growth is still yet to be decided. In my opinion, the revolution will continue but internet connected will just become the norm. It will be like “batteries included” and just assumed. Internet of Things will just be “things”. But a major roadblock still exists, the current standards and techniques for connecting IoT devices to the web prevents my 70 year old aunt from connecting her thermostat to the cloud. The infrastructure must change to enable rapid, secure, and repeatable connectivity to these devices.
As embedded device professionals why do we care? From a business model standpoint, IoT devices lend themselves to recurring revenue. Just as companies like Gillette and Keurig have learned, this model works well and stands today.