The evolution of IoT–when does it experience the eventual explosive growth?

I once watched the BBS show The Ascent of Man with my father. Sadly this was back in the time evolution_124448kwhen you missed a show, you had to wait for it to come back around (we missed two episodes and had to wait nearly 2 years for them to air again).

We’ve all seen this image and the many parodies in the modern age with the last version of man not being upright but hunched over a computer. Humans going from hunched over to hunched over in the end.

I bring this up because frankly computing has a similar evolution. Where the first computers in the end were limited in their ability to do anything more than mathematics. Then slowly they evolved adding as the evolution of humans has taught us a big toe. The big toe appearing in the Humanoid branch roughly 3.2 million years ago. A game changer for evolution. The same is true of computing.

The personal computer and the birth client server technologies allowed for the creation of cloud3more interaction. The server, previously doing all the work could now share that load with the accessing computer. In the graphic we see the birth of mobility and then the concepts that are and continue to evolve into the IoT. The Internet of Things all around us, ubiquitous. I suspect however the world ubiquitous is incorrectly used in this scenario. There will be technology free enclaves in the future. Places where the reality of technology won’t intrude. Your cell phone (or as I like to call it Mini-Me) won’t work. Your computer won’t turn on and in the end there won’t be any sensors or devices around you. But that is the future not today.

The promise of the IoT and in the end the implementation of what could be nearly ubiquitous compute resources is the concept of connection. Not the sensors sending data to anyone interested in that data. Not the huge data systems preparing and crunching numbers and data to produce reports and information that can be easily consumed. Nope it is in the end the connection.

IoT will represent the free soda fountains in some amusement parks. Free in that you can walk up to the building with the soda and ice and help yourself. Not free in the sense that to get to the free soda you have to pay to be in the park. For IoT your payment will be the wearable, stayable and portable solution you are accessing. The barrier to having ubiquitous technology is of course the reality of cost and infrastructure.

I used to travel to Southeast Asia quite frequently in the early years of global cellular communication. While I always turned off the data (because and frankly even today the various providers way over charge for the cost of data outside of your country) and had the voice on only for emergency work and family calls. It drove me nuts that without changing phones I could get on a plane in Chicago Illinois with two bars of service. I could land in Singapore and the same phone would have five bars of service. The US has a heavy telephone infrastructure that prevented in the end some of the innovation that countries without the infrastructure could have in the early days of cellular.

In the end I suspect the reality of cost is the limiter today for the IoT explosion that is coming. Perhaps the recent price wars in the cellular market will continue long enough to make data less expensive. Or perhaps there can be a global law stating the actual cost of data moved plus a 3% profit cap so that the cost goes down. Removing the initial cost barrier will create the technology free parks talked about in the beginning of the blog. It will usher the age of IoT into the as seen above next step in computing evolution.

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Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.

(all images copyright Google Images)