The internet of things may drive you nuts before it makes things better

The scariest thing anyone has ever said to me about the internet of things wasn’t about the NSA spying on my gadgets or that someone might hack my connected door locks. Instead, it came from Bob Dahlberg, VP business development at Arrayent, who told me last week, “Right now big appliance makers only have contact with a buyer once every ten years or so, but with connected devices they could make that three to four times a week.”
The idea of my fridge, my dryer and my dishwasher all conspiring to provide me updates several times a week in some attempt to keep in touch on behalf of Samsung, Bosch or Whirlpool makes me want to run screaming from the internet. But in some ways this might be the near-future of the internet of things at big companies, because the budget and ideas for connectivity are mostly driven by marketing budgets.
In conversations with myriad companies that consumer-facing business hire to manage all the cloud-based, behind-the-scenes technical stuff that comes with offering connected devices, it’s become clear that marketing, not engineering or even R&D, is behind much of the rush to get connected. This is why we have drones delivering pizza.
Yet, it’s equally clear that for manufacturers, connecting devices isn’t just beneficial on the sales side: it could have profound impacts on making devices easier to service. Imagine if your dryer could tell the manufacturer that a ball bearing had come loose in the drum, as well as provide information about how people use the product and therefore suggest product improvements. This is already happening in some areas and will just increase in time.
The practical matter for startups (although some have been around for several years) in this sector — whether they are trying to build a platform as a service or chips — is that their customers can range from technically savvy product engineer to a marketing staffer with a great plan to build Toaster 2.0. This means that a lot of startups in the space are betting on platforms as a service as the right vehicle for implementing connectivity into products — and explains the gold rush mentality around the IoT platforms that is occurring right now.