At the peak of any hype cycle, shiny technology obscures value. The Internet of Things is no exception. Companies from Cisco to GE are making big predictions and bets on the IoT market. Part of getting over the “peak of inflated expectations” is converting hype into value. The core value propositions are easy to articulate for IoT: efficiency gains (costs savings + time savings + risk management), productivity gains, and enhanced human experiences. The transition happens when we quit talking about the technology and talk about what it does for us.
What Smart Things Can Learn from Dumb Things
We tend to look at new things through the filters of old perspectives; IoT is no exception. Right now we view IoT through the perspective of mobile computing. We have to worry about the OS on our phones being up to date, about how to get things on a network, loading apps, unlocking phones, etc. Perhaps we should look at IoT through a different perspective. Smart things could learn a lot from dumb things.
You plug in a “dumb” light bulb, flick the light switch, and then you’re all done. Right now, you plug in a “smart” light bulb, you configure a gateway to be on your wireless network, you pair the light bulb with the gateway, you load an app on your phone, you pair that app with the gateway, and then you’re all done. When you want to control that light again, be sure the wall switch is on, unlock your phone, run the app, select the light, and turn it on.... If it is a secure light bulb, you might even have to create a user name and password. Which is the “smart,” and which is the “dumb” light bulb again? We believe there are many principles that “smart” things can learn from “dumb” things.
- Onboarding – You onboard a dumb thing by buying it and putting it where it is going to be used.
- Security – You secure a dumb thing by putting it in a secure place: your home, your car, and your office. Possession in your secure place is nine-tenths of the law. You secure the place, not the thing. These places have locks and security systems. You don’t have a password for every object in your house.
- Interaction – Had we started with computing that was cheap, powerful, and wirelessly connected, we would have interacted with computing in vastly different and more natural ways. The iPad is fairly easy for a 2-year-old to use because it has physics that a 2-year-old can understand: you touch things, and they move. You interact with dumb things by touching them and manipulating them.
- Sharing – Most physical things are shared by mere presence. A friend in your car or watching your TV in your home. We all share physical spaces.
- Maintenance – You maintain your things by cleaning them, perhaps getting them fixed, or replacing them when you notice they are broken.
So how can we translate this for the world of “smart” things:
- Onboarding – Onboarding a smart thing should be the same as a dumb thing. Put it in a secure place. The difference is the smart thing is aware of the place it is in. The access points become the virtual gateway to the space.
- Security – Secure the place not the thing. The thing is secure by being in a physical place.
- Interaction – Utilize natural interaction via touch and for smarter device gesture/
- Sharing – Most devices will be shared. Sharing happens when a person is in a place.
- Maintenance – Can we automatically detect when things are broken and automatically maintain them? Techniques like app stores with automatic updates have been doing this for a long time. Perhaps when a device is beyond supportability it gets isolated. Perhaps we can do better than dumb things here.
So maybe we can teach a new thing some old tricks!
The Internet of Things is more about things working together than the things themselves. We have many non-networked things. We have been extending web pages to be programmatically mashable web services for some time now. People have realized their services are more valuable when they can be easily connected with other services. This is a network multiplier effect. With APIs for connected things, we are extending this mashability into the physical world. This integrate everything concept is a core tenant of the Citrix Octoblu IoT platform. These technologies further reduce the cost of automation of people, places, and things increasing operational efficiencies and delight.