The Internet of Things (IoT) is a very popular topic these days. This idea that everything will eventually be connected and everyone will have access to it, has, during the past decade, matured from utopian futurism to the peak of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. Gartner projects 6.4 billion (yes, with a b) connected things worldwide in 2016, a 30 percent increase from last year.
With all this growth comes excitement and a fair amount of uncertainty. Which three IoT trends are top of mind in 2016? Let’s take a look.
One: more privacy, please
For years we’ve been hearing about hackers attacking banks and retail chains to get access to our financial information and credit cards. Last year the Office of Personnel Management, the Russian-based antivirus company Kaspersky Lab, and even the CIA Director John Brennan’s AOL account were hacked. The impact of such attacks is relatively contained, which is not to say the results aren’t dire. But the illegal use of private data spread across millions of nodes of the IoT can have far more widespread implications.
In a recent report titled Consumer Perceptions of Privacy in the Internet of Things, the Altimeter Group revealed that 78% of consumers are very concerned about companies selling their data. Here are the top three consumer concerns in the report:
- Consumers’ top concern: Who is seeing my data?
- At least half of consumers expressed heightened discomfort with the use and sale of their data in connected ‘real world’ environments.
- Consumers want more information and more engagement around privacy
What can we expect in 2016 when it comes to privacy? More public awareness. Perhaps some governance led, possibly, by a European entity. And since privacy and security go hand-in-hand, let’s hope we will see increased security built into the Internet of Things.
Two: can we find a common language?
Will 2016 be the year of an IoT protocol? Many doubt it. Some say yes. Let’s look at both sides.
No, you can’t!
There are too many conflicting interests when it comes to the IoT, say the nay-pundits. The companies which sell us the “things” and the companies who sell us the connectivity all strive for one thing: control. Hence the proliferation of existing protocols; Zigbee, Z-Wave, Thread, Bluetooth. And another thing, says this camp: how can you even begin to create a universal protocol to cover everything from a pacemaker to a refrigerator?
Valid points, nay-sayers!
Yes we can!
The IoT protocol optimist camp includes Techcrunch, among others. In a recent article titled What Will the Internet of Things Be When it Grows Up? Jim Hunter makes the prediction that a “dominant schema will become evident next year, which will serve as the suggested ‘dictionary,’ and much of the industry will choose to follow it. This schema will be treated as open source, so individuals and companies around the world can participate in its evolution.”
Then he goes on to say that “at least two more” standards will emerge this year, and both will “seek to gain worldwide acceptance as THE standard for connectivity between things.”
Hmm. A dominant schema and at least two more standards. Call this tempered optimism, if you will.
Three: The year of the IoT platforms
Yes, there will be more IoT startups and platforms than we’ll know what to do with.
Last year Chicago-based startup Konekt raised $1.3 million to build an IoT platform. Earlier this year, U.S.-Israeli startup Neura, which allows users to personalize their IoT experiences, raised $11 million.
Wait, there are many more platforms out there: Temboo, a cloud-based middleware that makes it easy for developers to connect sensors to the cloud; TempoIQ, which simplifies storing and analyzing sensor data; thethings.iO, which claims to be “Amazon Web Services for IoT companies.” There is no doubt many more will make the business headlines this year.
I expect we will keep hearing about the Internet of Things, this Uber-connected cosmos, for years to come. Whether you believe that the IoT will fundamentally change the way we live and work, or merely act as the high-tech backdrop to Silicon Valley kitchens, whose appliances will do the milk-ordering themselves, thereby allowing their owners an extra hour in the office each week, depends largely on your affinity for technology and for “connectivity.” If your idea of “connecting” is an afternoon soccer game with your friends followed by a pint of brew at your local pub, you most likely haven’t reached this point in the blog. And I must say a big part of me envies you.