As new technology is introduced, that won’t be the most important question.
One question that surfaces repeatedly from all parts of the electronics world is, ‘When will the IoE be real?’
There’s no simple answer to that question—and there never will be. In some market segments, notably industrial, the IoE has been in existence for years. Being able to predict outages in a production environment has huge economic benefits, and companies have been adding those kinds of features for years. In other segments, it will take much more time to roll out for a variety of reasons ranging from cost to consumer readiness. But as a whole, progress is being made, even if it isn’t always visible.
It was roughly the same with the Internet, which became commercially available in 1995. But the Internet, first demonstrated in 1972 as ARPANET, had been operating quite successfully in various forms for more than a couple decades by that time. Still, in 1995, the Federal Networking Council agreed on the term Internet, with address space linked together by the Internet Protocol using TCP/IP. There’s a good timeline discussion here from the Internet Society.
The Internet of Things, or its most recent embodiment, the Internet of Everything, is a logical extension of the Internet. It’s adds the ability to share and receive data on devices rather than just computers. There will be some confusion over terminology here and plenty of arguments over semantics. The smartphone has evolved to the point where it is arguably a computer with a phone rather than the other way around. But it’s also an IoE device. So is any car purchased during the past several years. And so are smart meters, home security systems, pacemaker, an insulin pumps, and even computers.
What’s changing is that more features are being added into these and other devices to automate some functions. This is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, even though the retrospective shift is enormous. And it’s done in discrete pieces that can be tested out individually, so rather than your car reminding you that it’s due for servicing it will communicate with the dealership so they can notify you to schedule an appointment. Or in the case of Tesla, it may all be done with an automated software download when the car is turned off.
The biggest and most noticeable shifts are always across markets, which often result in the creation new markets and new companies. Google is a powerhouse, but the company didn’t go public until 2004. Apple’s resurgence didn’t happen until after the introduction of the iPod in 2001—or more notably, iTunes, which gave users the ability to buy one song at a time instead of entire CDs. And Facebook didn’t go public until 2012, by which time communication across geopolitical borders was common even in areas where it wasn’t always sanctioned. All of these companies owe their success to the Internet and the ability to communicate across markets.
The point is that these are all recent phenomena, and they are all Internet-based innovations that span what previously were distinct, isolated markets. These so-called mash-ups have created all sorts of new tools, such as real-time-traffic GPS systems. They also can create new problems, such as increased traffic being routed through local streets as a way of leveling out the traffic flow and reducing traffic jams.
There are many other ideas in the pipeline of companies, as well. Security and power are still hurdles, and the models for reducing the cost of custom devices that have sufficient performance, battery life and preserve data integrity are still being worked on. But the IoE is real, even if the evolution of all the tens or hundreds of billions of parts will take years or decades to unfold. The important question isn’t when the IoE will be real. It’s who will be the big winners and losers, and how quickly those positions will be defined and up-ended by the introduction of new technology.