Looking Back At The IoT?

Why the Internet of Things is more popular than Taylor Swift.

popularity

No one can claim the IoT suffers from a lack of attention. A quick search of ProQuest for all mentions of the phrase “Internet of Things” since 2005 turns up 1.5 million results, or more than 400 pieces of content a day. That trumps many other topics, tech-related or otherwise, over the same period of time. For comparison: “smart phone” (478K results), “Apple Computer” (362K results), “e-commerce” (305K results), and “Taylor Swift” (116K results).

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The issue, aside from how to say anything new about IoT, is drawing any meaningful conclusions amid all this noise. Here’s my stab at three.

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Surely one conclusion is that the hype cycle, familiar to all us in the tech world, appears to be amped up in the extreme. Indeed there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that we are still marching our way up toward the peak of inflated expectations, common at the early stage of any new technology. Despite the occasional negative article about IoT, most coverage from the mainstream media on down to the tech blogs seems positive, and often downright adulatory.

Even the normally staid Brits can’t resist. Earlier this summer, Financial Times West Coast editor Richard Waters wrote a column on IoT in which he dutifully reported another in a long list of eye-popping forecasts (the IoT market will reach $11 trillion by 2025 and account for more 10% of global GDP, according to McKinsey). The column’s headline: “Technology conceives the inconceivable; some implications are too big and too revolutionary to grasp.”

If, like me, you’re old enough to have lived through similar sounding hype about personal computing, the Internet/World Wide Web and smart phones, you’re forgiven for reserving at least some enthusiasm at this point, despite the FT/McKinsey pedigree of the source. While the IoT opportunity is undeniably huge, it’s worth it to recall all the unhappy waystations — for starters, watch for lots of bad press along with much consolidation and failure in the market — that invariably await on the way to widespread, high-growth adoption.

The IoT, in this way of thinking, is mostly about a future that’s well down the road and out of view from where we sit today.

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On the other hand, maybe the place to look is the rearview mirror. This is because an entirely reasonable second conclusion is that the IoT era in fact has long since arrived and is only now being claimed after the fact by marketing types and the media. The point is best expressed by the William Gibson quote: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Tech bloggers have long gotten mileage out of Gibson, but nowhere is his observation more true than in the area of IoT.

I chose to look at IoT references dating back to 2005 since that was the year, marked by no one at the time, that the number of connections for people accessing the internet at their desks (hardwired) and on their mobile devices (Wi-Fi/cellular) was eclipsed by the number of internet connection to “things.” And the trend has continued since then. By the end of this year more than 80 percent of internet connections will be tied to things.

So maybe the best way to understand the IoT is to try to sort through the opportunities it has been creating in the last decade in everything from smart meters to connected medical devices to security cameras. That is, maybe the IoT is about figuring out what’s already happened while no one was watching.

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I keep writing “maybe” because any technology with such a mix of market upside and technical challenges, and that cuts across such a wide swath of industries and into nearly every corner of society, is nearly impossible to get a clear read on. A collection of trusted voices is needed. Which leads to my third conclusion: It’s my humble assertion that engineers and execs at EDA companies and other tool vendors belong on any such list, which is why I’ll be blogging off and on this year, along with other colleagues at Mentor.

In EDA we’re as close to being technology-agnostic as it gets, and for decades we have been broad enablers of the slew of game-changing technologies that have preceded the IoT, from standalone and networked to PCs to mobile communications and smart phones. Does this arm’s-length perspective and long experience mean we have something useful to say on IoT? I hope so. I am certain that after participating in the blogging world and (we hope) occasionally generating a comment or two we will learn about IoT as well, another goal of writing regularly on this topic.

And if the blog doesn’t work out, I guess we could always starting writing about Tay Sway. Hard to believe a pop star might be underexposed, but at least compared to the IoT, she could use the help.

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