Connection was the driving force of this year’s CES: Connected devices, connected industries, connected places and, most importantly, connected people. Whereas wearable technologies were the darlings of last year’s show, 2015 was all about how to get everything to work well and work together.
But is this vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) hype or a near reality? Is it ready today, or will we have to wait another ten years? Will it dramatically improve everyone’s lives or leave out many people while threatening privacy and data security?
Research predicts an IoT global market of $7 trillion in 2020 across 40 billion installed connected devices (IDC, Gartner). That would rate as the fastest adoption of new technology in history—surpassing the pace of consumer penetration by TVs, DVDs and even the Internet—so the stakes are high for everyone from expected players such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, BMW, Jawbone, and many others that are betting big on a Smarter World.
So, which technologies are closest to being ready for primetime? Here are the Big Three:
Connected Home—Get ready for the next generation of light bulbs, smart meters, garage doors, thermostats, monitoring systems, home entertainment devices, appliances, sprinkler systems and more.
Connected Car—It’s the most expensive mobile computer device you will ever own. It will create connections to tolls, digital outdoor, transit, weather and road reports, streaming media and, ultimately, retailers and advertisers in real time.
Connected People—Wearables aren’t just for tech geeks and fitness nuts anymore. The next generation will connect people and the data they produce to smartphones, smart TVs and tablet hubs; they will include everything from watches, rings, belts and smart clothing to smart baby soothers, bottles and monitoring devices such as EarlySense. (Note: Even animals are getting trendy: Holland’s Sparked has wireless cattle sensors to monitor for pregnancy and sickness.)
The declining price of sensors and processors, the use of RFID—radio frequency identification—tags and beacons, and the wide deployment of WiFi will drive this device connectivity very quickly. But, delivery of the promise and adoption by consumers will require ease of use, near universal access and a seamless open system. It will also demand the involvement of more people—besides engineers and developers—including designers, artists, fashionistas, urban planners, inventors and futurists.
Sci-fi writer William Gibson—the guy who coined the phrase ‘cyberspace’—said a decade ago: “The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Today, I would change that to “The future is already here, it just isn’t fully connected…YET.”
Bruce Neve is CEO of Starcom MediaVest Canada and has worked in the media industry for more than 25 years.