The Internet Of Things Still Doesn't Exist!!

The Internet Of Things - You've probably heard that phrase a hundred times, and the media would have you believe that it's a whole new world...  

(Apologies if you're now singing that song from Aladdin)

In 1994 I first logged in to a coca-cola vending machine that was connected to the Internet. It had been network enabled since 1982, and is fairly well recognised as one of the first connected non-computer "devices"

There was a coffee pot that inspired the first web-cam from 1991 and the legendary Internet Enabled Toaster from the late 1980s.

Ok - so the Internet Of Things is not a new concept. Although I'd argue that the "Internet Of Things" still doesn't even properly exist - it's just different stuff connected to the Internet using their own proprietary interfaces.

So, what is new?

Well, I think the way it's being sold.  Most of the things on the Internet of Things come with a cloud-based Software as a Service back-end,  enabling you to go on to your thing-provider's website or app and manage and control the thing, whatever it may be.  

That's great, if you just have one or two things..  
However - picture this - your house has 15 smart lightbulbs, all connected to a "smart-bulb" app.
Your fridge uses the eFridge web-site.
Your TV uses the Netfilms, Tongas Prime video and StreamBox apps (each with their own login).
You have a "iVest" thermostat, a cheap "IseeU" web-enabled security camera system, and a washing machine virtual assistant called Bernard-3000.

Yes, I made up the names for the most part, but you get the point - they're all different systems with different interfaces, different data streams and all via different companies, each with their own terms and conditions, their own privacy policies and potential security problems, their own login names, payment systems, passwords and probably huge form to fill in to register.

Do consumers really want that?

I think that the Internet will only truly be ubiquitous once it is invisible to the consumer.

There should be some kind of central local control system, probably part of the home internet router as that makes sense from a network point of view - with a standard API that all the individual things hook into.  That system will handle all of the data to and from the cloud, feeding the APIs of the individual services if required, or handling all of the control itself if the user wants a completely offline setup.

Yes, shock - horror - I said Offline.  There is no reason why a small raspberry pi-sized system couldn't handle all this stuff, it doesn't need to talk to the Internet.

Configuration or reporting from individual devices should then be as easy and invisible as possible, using whatever is required, a combination of mobile apps, voice controls, gesture controls, smart sensors and traditional switches, buttons and dials.

If a proper, universal standard for the data existed, both for control and reporting, this would be really easy.

Not convinced? Ok, so, imagine a world where this standard exists..

Let's say you already have the central control system.

  • You buy a new desk lamp, you take it home and plug it in. 
  • To tell the control system you have a new lamp, scan the lamp's QR code on the nearest 'house panel' or an app on your phone - it auto-authenticates, and even auto-locates itself in the house map via wifi triangulation and / or by some kind of power socket id.
  • The control system recognises the lamp's model number, it downloads the metadata for the device features and abilities and assigns a default set of rules to the users of the system, giving them access to turn the light on and off etc.   
  • It appears on the relevant user interface as an option.

That would be seamless to the user, no complicated configuration, no installing new apps or reading new T&Cs, no new worries about sending data to a new platform.

Now that would be an Internet of Things.