The Internet of Things isn't just something that is going to be here in the near future, it is something that we are seeing now. There are millions of homes around the world with connected sensors, supply chains utilizing sensors to accurately track deliveries, and car companies tracking the state of their cars in real-time.
However, we are nowhere near the stage where we can say it is all encompassing and we are going to see considerable growth in the coming years, with the number of devices expected to hit 20 billion by 2020, up from 6.3 billion today. According to Gartner, the spend on devices will also significantly increase from $1.414 billion today to $3.010 billion within that time.
These increases suggest that many companies will be looking to get in on the act, but it is not as simple as just making two devices talk to one another, there are some significant hurdles to overcome.
Utilizing and harnessing the power of millions of connected devices is not something that is technically simple. Gadi Amit, president of New Deal Designs said in a Fast Company interview that there are very few devices that are genuinely connected (wise devices) but instead just upload data to the cloud.
On top of the challenges of building a 'Wise Device' comes the viability and usability of a product. We have seen things like connected fridges, which have some usefulness but probably not enough for people to shell out thousands of dollars on one. An IoT device needs to hit a moving target that is technologically innovative, useable and good looking, each of which is a constantly changing individual concept.
Therefore, finding designers who can work effectively together to create something that is more than simply a data upload device, that has a genuine use case and looks good is the only way to create anything that truly breaks the IoT mould. Finding these people is very difficult, they need to marry
A prime example of this working well has been with Fitbit, who created an entirely new industry through the way they created connected devices. This started with a good, usable design that people were willing to wear and accelerated from there.
When you have a wifi network that connects a couple of hundred laptops, keeping data secure and private is relatively simple. When you are dealing with thousands of sensors that could be anywhere in the world, this challenge becomes considerably more difficult. The mechanics behind how this kind of privacy is protected can be taught and implemented, but the challenge is always going to be making sure that the data being created is sent to the right place and that it is not intercepted on the way.
The issue of privacy is not simply about making the IoT work for an individual company though.
We are in the formative years of the IoT, where people are yet to make their minds up about its implications. For some, it is a fantastic move that will see untold opportunities for people across the world, for others it is a terrifying prospect where their most personal data can be stolen easily. If companies don't take their privacy seriously, not just at the start of the process, but constantly evaluating their current offerings to keep their security updated, it will increase the number of doubters and slow the entire process.
Collection & Scalability
Data collection is currently relatively simple to do. It exists normally in transactional form and in comparatively slow velocities. This is because the vast majority of data currently collected will be the result of human actions, whether this is through behavior online, spending money on a card, or just connecting to wifi on their mobile device.
With device-to-device connections, this isn't the case and data can be generated in huge volumes in a very short space of time. This is both a blessing a curse for companies, as it gives them a huge bank of data to work with and improve what they're doing, but also means that they need to be able to collect, store, and scale this data.
It is important to get this right at the start, as once all of the data starts piling up, it will become increasingly difficult to change.