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  • Writer's pictureDean Anthony Gratton

Is the IoT Dead?

I know! It’s one of those surprise blows to the stomach, which you weren’t expecting and it’s definitely a contentious headline. “The IoT is Dead,” especially for those currently in the throes of understanding and perhaps shaping an internet of things (IoT) strategy. But allow me to explain …

Everything under the IoT umbrella

The term “IoT” emerged as a concept some time ago and did so with such promise. The original supposition provided by Kevin Ashton in the late 1990s offered a simple use case, where objects could be tracked using radio frequency identification (RFID). Later, with the furore of a very young internet, along with such protocols as the Internet Protocol (IP), Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the User Data Protocol (UDP) that collectively formed the IP suite, it seemed a natural shift to track objects or “things” using IP.

But today we have all been guilty of distorting Ashton’s original supposition beyond recognition. More so, there are many who claim that anything internet-capable should sit comfortably or, rather, I would suggest, awkwardly under the IoT umbrella and, for me, that’s certainly not the case. As a purist, there are several use cases that have been created and are now claiming an IoT-status; for example, smart homes, cities and metering are just a few applications that shouldn’t necessarily be classified as IoT.

Solving real-world problems

There has been a shocking misrepresentation of many established ideas and technologies, along with their associated applications and/or services, which have been, sometimes shamefully “rehashed” and “recycled.” I’m talking about products and applications that have been around for some time yet are made to seem like “the newest and best thing ever!” The concept of a smart home, for example, has been around since the 1950s, but has only now achieved real recognition, due to the advancement of technology. And this, for me, is just one example of how confused the enduring “rehashing” process is for both ideas and technologies are that are unabashedly ushered under the IoT umbrella. It isn’t going to work; a smart home could never, in purist terms, ever truly be a part of an IoT ecosystem, since a “smart home” is itself a concept.

In fact, I attended a Government-led roundtable event last year, chatting away with other like-minded individuals on the future of connectivity and I frequently heard how “everything that’s connected to the internet is part of the IoT.” I firmly disagree! IoT needs a sense of purpose and a compelling rationale that bestows a credible strategy to solve real-world problems. As technologists, we can’t simply place anything and everything under the umbrella of IoT – it’s a lazy and a “throw-away” placement, which doesn’t necessarily fit. 

Establishing a purpose and a compelling rationale

Knokke beach, in Belgium, for example, offers an opportunity of developing a real-world IoT strategy that would comprise the building blocks of most IoT architectures. You know, things like smart sensors (yes, those ‘things’), edge computing, enterprise and the cloud, as well as big data – all the usual buzzwords! Knokke-Heist and its surrounding areas are often subject to flooding; however, the provision of an intelligent flood defense system using sensors to monitor sea levels, humidity and probably a host of other like-enabled sensors, could be used (along with previous and existing weather patterns and their associated data) to holistically predict when it is appropriate to deploy automated defenses and to alert inhabitants and authorities to prepare for a potential flood. 

I admit, such a use case is a world away from Ashton’s original conjecture. Nonetheless, it does demonstrate how, with the convergence of technologies and the evolution of embedded systems, along with an effectual backend infrastructure harvesting data to further complete the IoT story, we can enrich an ecosystem that provides a tangible architectural strategy to a real-world problem. The flood defense system has a sense of purpose and an unequivocal rationale. 

Who killed this IoT thing?

Despite technological advancement, I am unable to qualify the ability to turn on a light with Alexa, as integral to the IoT; nor can I possibly suggest that the smart metering program, for example, be labelled as an IoT solution. Moreover, I get more than a little annoyed with those who dare to suggest that a refrigerator providing you with a text message to inform you that your milk is low; a kettle that can be turned on, again, using Alexa or a car that warms itself via your mobile phone is part of the IoT. 

I am disappointed to witness that the IoT, today, is nothing more than an amalgamized clump of often poorly thought-out and executed concepts – it originally emerged with such promise and has now become confused. Perhaps, on reflection, Ashton’s original ideation was a misnomer, since the frivolous internet association, for me, has inadvertently killed this IoT thing!

Until next time…

What’s more, industry has been guilty of damaging the concept. I may live to eat my words, but I’m scratching my head wondering “what happened?” since there were real-world challenges that were faced and, some may say, ignored. Yes, industry, in a sense of an “eagerness to develop the next big thing,” has unintentionally left the IoT concept in a critical condition. 

So, this is where a “sharing my condolences” Dr. G signs off.

Originally published in Technically Speaking.


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a technology influencer, analyst & futurist 

I dispel the rumours, gossip and hype surrounding new technology

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