The Internet of Things: Anywhere, Anytime, Anything

The “Internet of Things” will explode over the next several years as connectivity comes to everything from cameras to heart-rate monitors to earthquake sensors to pets. But as Laurie Lamberth writes in a comprehensive new report over at GigaOM Pro, a host of hurdles must be overcome as the space evolves. And we must keep the Internet of things in perspective as we build an always-on, always-connected world.

Harbor Research has predicted that shipments of so-called “intelligent devices” will grow to 430 million in 2013 from 73 million in 2008, while total device revenues will exceed $12 billion. And while mainstream consumers may not yet be aware, the underpinnings for the Internet of things are already being laid. Mobile network operators are investing heavily to deliver data to cars, kitchen appliances and other unconventional platforms, and they’re working with hardware vendors and utilities to build smart grids that can ease our global footprint. Meanwhile, conntectivity options have expanded beyond RFID to include Bluetooth as well as broadband, and the emergence of the mobile application ecosystem and cloud computing provide the foundation upon which the Internet of things will be built.

Privacy concerns remain a significant stumbling block for the Internet of things, however. As connectivity becomes ubiquitous, this web of connected devices will be able to collect and report not just our daily movements but also our purchases, possessions and medical status. So it will be incumbent on service providers and application developers to clarify their relationships with their customers and be forthcoming about how their data is being used. Industry players will also have to develop platforms that can manage information from billions of connected devices and provide actionable information. And collaboration between multiple players in different industries will require the emergence of complicated new business models: a health monitor with 3G connectivity, for instance, must generate revenue not just for the network operator but also for the manufacturer, the healthcare provider and perhaps the application developer and app retailer.

Most importantly, though, the primary challenge in building the Internet of things will be keeping all that connectivity in perspective. As Lamberth writes, “We must be sure to keep our humanity top of mind as we move into our hyper-connected future, and strive to ensure that the developing network of connected machines is focused on serving humanity, rather than the other way around. Only then can we attain the calm, ubiquitously connected society that the original framers of the [Internet of things] envisioned.”

Read the full report here.