The IoT: wild dream and even wilder reality?
One topic that often comes up in such conversations, is IoT, and the dream of ‘A world where everyday objects are connected’, able to gather and share data, and improve lives through automated, responsive interactions with and for people
. And the general feeling that this is still, just that - a dream.
But that’s where I come in! I help clients realise that whilst the IoT may seem intangible - not yet wrapped up and packaged ready to deliver straight into their systems - its key components are already making huge advances in virtually all sectors.
No one can deny the amazing innovations the commercial tech sphere has seen in the last decade: from the very first iPods to the iWatch, personal computing, personal communication, and media consumption have been completely redefine by tablets, smartphones and similar devices as mobile technology continues to advance at speed.
In fact, the rise of satellite products such as the iWatch and other wearables represents the growth of a particular microcosm of the IoT. In this case, the smartphone is as the hub, and the wearables are a “solar system” of connected devices, all passed through the processing power of the smartphone.
Beyond interconnectivity, the dream of the IoT promises us a number of other key attributes such as nano processing, AI, automation and machine learning. The sci-fi future in which all these are combined together as yet seems to be always just around the corner. Having said that, looking at a more granular level we can see that all of these represent huge technological leaps in their own right, which are already making incredible advances in virtually all sectors, but especially, automotive, health, home, transport, city planning and personal software.
I think there are two factors that need to be considered as to why IoT is seen as ‘still to break’:
The Human Condition, and the mindset that means ‘I will always want a little more than what I have’. Even if we follow a tangent of fabrication such as Moore’s law, there will always be a shortfall between that which is physically possible and what people want, due to the constraints of mobile technology. However, the gaps do seem to be shortening, with what were once dreams becoming realities at an ever quicker pace.
Much like the universe, advances in technology seem to become ever more divergent with every development, expanding in all directions simultaneously. There are multiple platforms for IoT and very little common architecture – they are all speaking different languages. As always, there are major power plays in the industry by the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and Facebook, all battling to define your connected world through common language systems for all the products plugged into your network. Until then, we will watch as emergent products race to deliver the next ‘killer’ feature to lure in the ‘general population’.
But what about wearables?
As I mentioned, mobile technology is commanding a huge amount of attention in the world of the IoT, as they have become the hub that connects all our interactions with the world. Iterative developments, leading to less restrictive hardware interfaces and ever more powerful computing power, have delivered 10th gen devices that enable users to do frankly incredible things.
As such, all eyes are watching attentively for the next mobile innovation, be that smartwatches or VR headsets – and in fact, 3/4 of consumers see mobile as the nexus of their relationship with tech for the foreseeable future. Over the last few years, we have witnessed the rise (and judging by recent polls, plateau) of satellite devices that interact with mobile phones. Many have done well - but none have blown apart the market.
In my opinion, this levelling out is down to 1 key factor (amongst others): current device functionality and form factors.
The early pioneers in these satellite devices were people looking to be wowed by the new tech. However, as with all new tech, users have had to endure the early teething pains of balancing out limited battery life vs functionality which can and has caused the ‘appeal’ limit to be reached quickly, as devices do not keep up with the demands of the user's usual diurnal activities.
Let’s take for example the iWatch: it gives biometric information which a phone cannot, but lacks the processing power to allow for meaningful interactions with the device to find out insights, or can sync with the other apps on the phone but other than a clear notification or simple CTA demand has limited the wider usage to drop the phone out. The same cannot be said of tablets but there have been many studies that show the form factor of these devices lend themselves to users being immobile whilst using them, so there are much higher usage patterns in commuting and post work ‘second screening’ activities. Therefore they take up a new niche in the digital ecosystem, but shifts out from that of the mobile smartphone.
In this short article, I hope I have shown you that many amazing advances in technology can appear hidden depending on the channel. This can be because advances are mostly under the hood. Or it can be because we are still waiting for an ‘in hand’ product in the race for unifying a new proposition. Either way, do not think for one minute they are not happening. The most important thing is that it will not be one singular event that breaks the curve: so don't wait - innovate, and be the guys who keep pushing at the boundaries of mobile technology!