The Internet of Things (IoT) and/or Internet of Everything (IoE) phenomenon is nearly overwhelming. More than just a hot hashtag on social media, the concept is rarely explained in depth while appearing nearly ubiquitously in contemporary discussions involving communication, digital, data, and more. But where is this sudden infiltration into the mainstream coming from, and how did it creep up all of a sudden?
Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, suggests that accessibility and cost have played major roles in the rush of interest: “The price of sensors, processors, and networking has come way down. Since WiFi is now widely deployed, it is relatively easy to add new networked devices to the home and office.”
Therefore, with a relatively rapid boost in access based on proliferation of supporting technologies in tandem with cost, the IoT becomes increasingly socially relevant. Makes sense.
Janus Bryzek, known to some as “the father of sensors” feels that there are a number of factors at play which are “accelerating the surge” in interest. First, the new version of the Internet Protocol, IPv6, is “enabling almost unlimited number of devices connected to networks.” Next, four major network providers—Cisco, IBM, GE and Amazon—have decided “to support IoT with network modification, adding Fog layer and planning to add Swarm layer, facilitating dramatic simplification and cost reduction for network connectivity.” Finally, Bryzek discusses future estimates regarding the potential of the IoT wave. GE has calculated an estimate potential of $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years from the “Industrial Internet”. While Cisco portends up to 19 trillion based upon its forecast for economic value produced by the IoE in the year 2020. “This is the largest growth in the history of humans,” says Bryzek. Wow.
The largest growth in the history of humans? Not far from a bold and colossal assertion, but within specific contexts, Bryzek is very much on the mark. If thought about broadly, the IoT and IoE are not as complex and novel in their entirety as we may perceive them to be. Yes, innovations that progress and support the communication of digitally driven objects with one another are indeed ground-breaking and mesmerizing works of technological innovation. However, are we not building on trends of digitally supported communication that have been developing in tandem with one another for decades now? In no way am I negating the existence of a present phenomenon in consciousness or tangible innovation. Yet, we must not forget that the present mind-blowing capabilities that we possess for human-device and device-device communication (and vice-versa) are manifestations of a number of technologies which have been in a state of constant evolution for decades. From wireless communication, to the Internet itself, to microcontrollers, sensors, automation systems, micro-electromechanical systems, and many more necessary inputs, the Internet of Things is not reducible to vague, consumer-appropriate embodiments, except in commercial rhetoric.
The Internet of Things or Internet of Everything is the sum of an astounding number of mind-blowing tech breakthroughs which have steadily evolved over years, and it deserves to be conceptualized in this way. As consumers, active participants, and observers, and a social media community, we might gain from avoiding an oversimplification of the general IoT/IoE notion. So, although a sensational ascension of the IoE into popular culture has preceded this discussion, let us be wary of oversimplifying this digital revolution both in terms of the inputs involved and the time that it has taken for this phenomenon to embed itself into our daily lives. Think about how these changes have affected your daily life, and you will quickly appreciate that the IoT/IoE is much more complex, intricate, and beautifully profound than a three letter acronym.