The State of IoT: Buzzword or Mainstream Technology?

It’s been a few years since the term “Internet of Things” first took off, and since then it’s continued to significantly influence product design and R&D. From the now-well-established Nest thermostat to smart dishwashers, refrigerators and air filters, vendors across a variety of industries have hopped on the IoT-enabled bandwagon.  Gartner expects more than 21 billion IoT devices to be connected by 2020.

So where are we in the tech lifecycle of IoT? The very early stages. We’re seeing a lot of experimentation – this smart trash can connects trash and recycling compactors in Allentown, Penn., so city officials can monitor how frequently they get filled. However, most “smart” devices on the market haven’t led to a fundamental shift in a consumer’s experience. It will take this to move the IoT needle from simply a buzzword to a rapidly adopted technology.   

What do I mean by a shift in experience? True interconnectivity.

Imagine a smart refrigerator equipped with Amazon’s Echo technology, for example. When you run out of milk, it orders more for you. A reminder pops up on your smartphone to pick it up at the grocery store on your way home, and when you place the milk in the fridge the monitoring cycle begins again.

That’s not to say some of these IoT devices aren’t incredibly convenient and spurring further interest in IoT. Most of us would enjoy having the lights to turn on in your house or the temperature adjusting based on your proximity to home (geo-fencing). But right now, I expect we’ll see more industrial deployments simply because there are more business cases for it. A smart refrigerator available at your local home improvement store today actually does more for the vendor than the consumer by informing the store about what’s going on with its appliances in the field and giving the company actionable data to help make business more efficient and effective.

At the end of the day, products like Nest have created a broad awareness for the possibilities of IoT, but they haven’t resulted in mainstream adoption – yet. As an industry we need to move past the geek factor and being “cool” towards creating an entirely new experience that encourages adoption in the home. IoT technology must find a way to interact across one unified platform (so one day your garage opener could connect to your security camera and smart door lock) while also revolutionizing the consumer experience by increasing the work any given IoT device is doing for you. I’m waiting for the day my grill can remind me to stock up on propane, and I can monitor for the exact moment to flip my burgers.

What do you think is next for the Internet of Things? Share in the comments below or with me on Twitter @PeterHortenius