The subject of the Internet of Things (IoT) has an extremely broad range of interpretations. Some immediately think of the \u201cthing\u201d itself as a connected thermostat. Others see it as a means to extend products into services. Most interpretations gravitate toward financial reward through data collection and analysis.\nI recently attended IoT World in Santa Clara, California, and was struck by this diversity. Every conversation I witnessed had a five-minute preamble\/negotiation just to agree on a common perspective. It\u2019s kind of like the three blind men and the elephant parable, but instead of three men, it\u2019s 1,000 people touching a sculpture made of wet clay.\n+ Also on Network World:\u00a0IoT is the \u2018new industrial revolution,\u2019 says Vodafone +\nWhen Bill Gates famously said, \u201cWe always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten,\u201d I think he must have been referring to IoT. Even though it has been creeping up on us for years, we are yet to realize its true influence.\nSimply put, the impact will be much bigger than smarter toothbrushes. Connecting everything will radically change our world in ways we can barely imagine. It will indeed change the way we live and act. Here are four current (summer 2017) thoughts on IoT.\nIoT momentum is building quickly\nIt was hard to believe IoT World 2017 was the same venue as IoT World 2016. Conference organizers reported that show attendance increased 20x in its 35-month history. It was up nearly 50 percent from last year with over 14,000 pre-registered attendees. The expo hall was also much larger, with 250 exhibitors of all sizes.\nMore significantly, IoT is attracting huge vendors such as Johnson and Johnson, GE, Tata, and Microsoft, as well as a new generation of startups. The back four rows in the expo hall were dubbed Startup City and featured over 100 new companies.\nThe IoT lifecycle includes evolution\nThere\u2019s a fairly reliable progression in IoT solutions that starts with basic sensing, expands to control, and then culminates with the explosion of imagination. What happens is IoT solutions are created to solve a very specific known problem. Consider the journey of replacing 50-year-old power meters. Yesterday\u2019s smart meters simplified meter reading with a wand. The short-range telemetry improved reliability and reduced the time required to read meters.\nBut real connectivity can do so much more. New smart meters enable micro billing for time-of-day billing, monitor for leaks, and completely eliminate meter reading trips. Those 5-year-old \u201csmart\u201d meters are being replaced with new meters, but how long will these last?\nAnother example is the connected, cashless vending machine. The creators initially used IoT to remotely monitor inventory. Next, NFC readers were added for mobile payments. Additionally, discounted programs were created to reward regular customers. Finally, geo-awareness was added to the mobile app to help customers find nearby machines or locate a specific snack.\nIt is hard to imagine the benefits and capabilities of IoT in an unconnected world. As is so often the case, we don\u2019t realize what we are building until our eyes are opened to what is possible. As we start to connect and collect, previously unfathomable opportunities become obvious.\nDifferent tools are needed\nIn order to collect, analyze, and act appropriately, we need to completely rethink computing architectures and tools. Edge computing\u00a0creates a new category of devices, such as the Harman gateway, which intelligently aggregates local data. Time series databases, such as Influx, will become critical to manage and organize timestamped data. Every aspect needs updating, including management systems, network designs, and, of course, security systems require constant vigilance.\nHow much sales information can a sales representative enter into a CRM? It may seem like a lot, but it\u2019s relatively minor compared to millions of sensors continuously collecting a myriad of data. What\u2019s coming is will give a whole new meaning to \u201cbig data,\u201d perhaps ginormous data?\nThe amount of data collection on the horizon is staggering. Many IoT devices collect all kinds of data, such as GPS coordinates, weather, motion, video and usage. There is a clear trend of low-cost sensors becoming more powerful\u2014and thus prevalent. \u00a0\nWe regularly hear estimates of 25 billion to 50 billion devices on the internet by some near-term date. Big numbers provide a provocative vision, but the implications represent a radical, necessary change in current approaches and tools.\nIoT is hard\nIoT seems so easy. Sensors are cheap, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are \u201cfree.\u201d So, how hard can IoT be? The answer is it\u2019s really hard! There are a lot of moving parts, since so many of the sub-components, such as networks and processors, are changing quickly, but IoT usually adds the additional complexity of scale. The challenge is much bigger than many initially realize.\nIt\u2019s easy to mount a sensor that can be accessed from a smartphone, but designing a reliable sensor that can be remotely controlled and upgraded is an entirely different matter. Are there safety issues (think of Samsung phones catching fire)? Are there licensing issues (local and global spectrum)? Are there disposal issues? Are parts serviceable? Is it appropriately protected from environmental conditions? Is it secure? Is it cost effective? Those are just some of the questions involved in creating an IoT system.\nFinal thoughts\nWe are still in the early stages of what will become a highly connected world. Just as it was hard for me to explain to my kid why we can\u2019t pause live TV, it will be hard to explain to the next generation how we got anything done with such limited visibility.