The Internet of Things: Hype, Hope, or Hit?

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Are you sick and tired of hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) yet? I am. Most of you have probably been inundated with articles, e-mails, and blogs about IoT products, webinars, software, conferences, market studies and services.

I can’t deny that this is a hot topic: Practically every electronic company has jumped on this bandwagon. It seems like everyone has bought into the prediction of 50 billion or so connected devices by 2020. Everyone wants a piece of that action. After all, the industry needs the “next big thing” to drive progress and profitability. But will IoT really be the big hit of the decade, just a successful niche, or a big disappointment?

Smart HomeIt should be noted that not everyone believes the huge predictions. UK market study firm Beecham Research “believes these numbers to be unrealistic and potentially damaging to the industry if they are believed and companies building their business plans and funding expectations on such false promises.” Beecham further estimates that there are far less than one billion devices actually connected worldwide today, and that 50% annual growth rates are unlikely. Yet with all of the expected diverse applications it seems likely that the market will be large. One of these promising application areas is the connected home.

The connected home is one of the early adoption categories of IoT. Many consumers already have wireless Internet thermostats, video monitors, or security systems controlled by a smartphone. And appliance manufacturers are building in wireless nodes for networking around the home. Some of the proposed uses are a bit farfetched. Others lament that all the home devices do not talk to one another.

Thank goodness for that. I do not want my refrigerator talking to my thermostat or other device without my permission. Do you really want your bidet talking to your toaster? I still hold the philosophy that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Many connected home applications are just that—they are contrived and just flat unnecessary.

A huge percentage of consumers feel that way. And that backs up Beecham’s conclusion that “…there is no evidence yet of connected devices in the home taking off in a big way.” Nevertheless the connected home market is going to be a big one, so long as the devices are cheap and simple enough to install and use.

The whole idea of IoT is not a new one. The concepts have been known for decades. It used to be called telemetry or data acquisition or supervisory control. Remember those? IoT takes the basic idea to a whole new level, extending it to a wider range of industries and applications, thanks to small low power wireless devices and cheap low power processors (and the cloud, of course). Medical tracking and fitness measurement devices and other wearables are good examples.

The real growth sectors of IoT appear to be industry and the utilities, or the industrial IoT. Industry already uses the technology of IoT in plants, factories, and pipelines, but now monitoring and control will be improved and more widely deployed as better devices become available and prices decline. Utilities will use IoT methods to implement the smart grid on a wider scale.

As for other proposed IoT sectors, success is yet to be determined. Some companies are still looking for a business model and others are mulling over the security aspects of applications. Another major issue nagging the IoT movement is the big data aspect. All of the connected devices are going to generate a massive amount of data. Some studies indicate that in existing IoT systems 50 to 70 % of the collected data is never used or analyzed. Clearly some data analytics solutions are needed for some applications.

I am not an IoT denier, but I do see growth as slower than predicted based upon the hype. Some say that 2016 will be the year of IoT, but I doubt it. I see another year of R&D and standards resolution. Yet, overall the year should be positive for everyone—with revenue to come later.

Discuss this Blog Entry 11

on Jan 5, 2016

Many companies market IoT products to the home consumer the same way they have attempted to sell 3D TV, curved screens, and 4K UHDTV. While some connected devices may be useful (i.e.thermostats and security systems) many of these have already been connected at some level for years. Connected light bulbs, toasters, refrigerators, washing machines, toilets, lawn sprinklers, and food processors are just another marketing gimmick.

on Jan 6, 2016

I agree with JChas, for example just to debug a single device such as a refrigerator would require
a central cpu/communications device reading sensors sprinkled all over inside the fridge. Therefore A/D's, sophisticated software, etc,etc all
adding cost, probably to be sold as an extra exclusive model package. The sensors would probably fail before the fridge. Then what?
You would need a computer repair man, not someone to just change the Fan motor or relay.

on Jan 6, 2016

Well sjwright,

The reason the devices can com with each other is to share data and resources, otherwise why bother? So if the fridge thermostat fails, it can compensate by transmitting its data to the house thermostat and ask when to turn on and off its compressor. But, you ask, what happens if the compressor fails? Easy.. the fridge tells the house thermostat to go to 32 degrees F until the owner gets home. It then notifies the owner by sending and email. Uh.. repair man you say? Nahh.. that's a remotely piloted drone-bot that resides in the garage already.
Hey its just around the corner!
-EEtim

on Jan 6, 2016

EEtim; I disagree. I Don't want the fridge to do any more than notify me of a problem. I DO NOT want the house stone cold possibly letting the pipes freeze.

As a consumer I see the point the article makes. I have a programmable Thermostat but I see little need to access it from away.

As a designer of Industrial measurement, indication and controls I see a Large window of opportunity here. We have discussed putting our products on the net and have done so with one. It has sold 4 units with the ethernet option out of thousands. We and our customers are far more concerned about signal interference and hackers screwing with the process than having to run cables to the parts.
Thus, we have not pushed for replacing the cables from the sensors to the indicators and controls. Manufacturing is conservative and doesn't want to pay a geek to maintain the network.

on Jan 6, 2016

Ramjet: you failed to see EEtim's tongue firmly in his cheek!

I also fail to see a real market for IoT in the home. What really scares me is the level of attention to security by the developers. I am *very* afraid of hackers being able to do things I really don't want them to do inside my home. It is scary enough that I have several computers in the house that stay on most of the time with video cameras and microphones connected.

As sjwright said, all those connected (and superfluous) sensors and other I/O devices will likely fail before the underlying device fails.

on Jan 6, 2016

I have to laugh at all of the IoT marketing... remember CEBus, X-10, Lonworks, Microsoft's SCP, etc. ?
One big fail for IoT products is their requirement upon a third-party cloud server. I don't want my information 'in the cloud', and when the third-party goes bankrupt or is bought-out then you're left with one or more useless gadgets that no longer work.

on Jan 9, 2016

Kudos for rmack and sjackerman for seeing what is likely to be the next big nightmare for designers and manufacturers, not to mention users, of IoT devices. More intriguing are the oft proposed "solutions" to putting our identities, home/away status, conversations and habits, and our physical security out on the web, as these IoT devices encourage. So far, I have seen nothing that will stop hackers (private, industrial, or government) from accessing such sensitive information, either in transit or at the storage server. Quite the contrary, even smart phone GPS position, cameras, and audio are readily accesses remotely. eMail is an open book (who needs to swipe, open, and inspect letters anymore). Now we are being greeted with our baby or home monitoring system accessible to anyone who can get the address and password. The same goes for real-time and historical electricity usage for homes in many locales. Want to ruin your competition, why not hack his IoT appliances to shut off his toaster, coffee maker, refrigerator, and home security system on the evening prior to an important meeting? I, for one, think we have got priorities backwards, and need to do a LOT more about securing ALL internet data before trying to flood the market with IoT enabled devices, or forcing utilities to use IoT data gathering on their customers. How many of us have received emails or letters about our information having been in stolen data? My most recent was from the US government, their group doing security background checks no less.

on Jan 12, 2016

Speaking only for myself, I can't wait to be able to call up my refrigerator and tell it to flush my toilet.

on Jan 22, 2016

What’s even more comfortable when you are enterining after a day of hard work.
www.friv2games.org.uk/4

on Feb 2, 2016

Hi Lou Frenzel, I am totally agree with you internet change our life, The electronic technology and mobile companies create new devices and increase our business.
2 part carbonless forms from www.ncrformsco.co.uk

on Apr 25, 2016

The IOT is the next big security fail. There won't be any of it in my domicile.
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Lou Frenzel writes articles and blogs on the wireless, communications and networking sectors for Electronic Design. Formerly, Lou was professor and department head at Austin Community College...
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