It's time for the Internet of Things to get serious

The Internet of Things is a really, really big deal; so why do all the demos seem so trivial?

Internet of Things hack security smart home

Depending on who you ask, the Internet of Things will soon be worth up $14.4 trillion by 2022. Or maybe it’s $19 trillion by 2024.

I see the potential, and I want to believe in those lofty projections, but something keeps bringing me back to earth. Perhaps it’s that despite the emergence of practical IoT applications in a number of areas, many people are still scrambling to figure out how to make IoT relevant.

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Affordable development kit

This was brought home to me this week when Broadcom held a press event in San Francisco to unveil its new WICED Sense developers kit. The $20 kit includes a Broadcom Bluetooth Low Energy SoC and five Mems sensors with six functions (gyroscope, acclerometer, e-compass, barometer, temperature, and humidity).

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Broadcom's WICED Sense development kit for IoT applications.

According to Brian Bedrosian, senior director of wireless connectivity at Broadcom, the kit is designed to help developers create IoT product prototypes in days instead of months. In some cases, Bredrosian said, developers could build products just by creating the software and then take it to market just by “wrapping a new piece of plastic around the outside.” The device and associated iOS and Android mobile app is pretty cool, and the presentation spent lots of time talking about various IoT markets, including industrial uses and medical devices.

Hype and silliness

However, I can’t help thinking that if the IoT is going to survive the fall from what Gartner calls peak hype, the applications -- and especially the demos -- are going to have to get a lot more serious.

Broadcom’s press release cited applications like:

  • Using your smartphone to help find your car keys.
  • Getting an alarm if temperature or humidity in your home exceeds preset thresholds.
  • Creating a security device for pets that sends an alert if the pet wanders outside a specific area.
  • Athletic training by measuring the movement of tennis racquets or golf clubs.

And if that doesn’t set the world on fire, the company’s demo area showed off the Grush, an IndieGogo-funded project that uses sensors and a smart toothbrush to turn brushing your teeth into a game for kids while sending brushing data to parents and dentists. The $60 device is due to go on sale in November.

To be fair, this isn't just a Broadcom issue. Network World has run not one but two different slideshows highlighting a total of 40 silly uses to which the IoT has been applied:

Really? $19 trillion dollars in expected economic value and the best we can do is a smart toothbrush, a pet monitor, and a connected egg tray?

Let’s hope the developers who buy the Wiced Sense do something more interesting, more useful, and less silly than what we’ve seen so far. If not, the IT folks I wrote about last month who aren’t doing anything about the IoT may turn out to be smarter than everyone else. (See How the Internet of Things will -- and won’t -- change IT.)

Disclosure: I spent several months in 2013 and 2014 as a freelance “special correspondent” for Broadcom.

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