We live in an exciting time. The first wave of computers has peaked -- almost all of us to now carry around a sophisticated computer in our pockets. The second wave is in process; in most countries worldwide, in cities as well as in rural areas, people can connect to the Web almost anywhere.
The question we often ask ourselves is, how did we ever manage to survive without all these complex and powerful connected computing devices?
And now the third wave is upon us -- the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) will once again change our lives in such a way that we cannot remember how life was without it.
However, there are many challenges to conquer before the IoT is commonplace. Unfortunately, when I read the accompanying media coverage, it feels like we are surfing the crest of the hype cycle as fast as we can.
The word “smart” is becoming the dumbest word around. It has been applied to almost every device and system in our homes. In addition to smartphones and smart meters, we now hear about smart clothing and smart shoes, smart lights, smart homes, smart buildings, and every trendy city today has its smart city project. Just because it has a computer inside and is connected to the Web, does not mean it is smart.
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As typical with technology hype cycles, after the peak of the inflated expectations, the trough of disillusionment is waiting, and the armies of sideliners and criticasters are already shifting into gear: lack of interoperability, standard wars, primitive user interfaces, concerns about privacy and security -- all good arguments. But hopefully we will soon get on the slope of enlightenment, because I believe that the IoT will bring the value that will create a next wave of wealth creation, as we have seen from the computer wave and the Internet wave. But to be enlightened, we first need to understand where the hype overtakes the smart, so we can bring the IoT back to its real large proportions.
For example, we recently had a smart meter installed in our home and my expectations were high: this would revolutionize the way our family consumes energy.
However, a few weeks after this meter was installed, the warm water pipe in the basement broke. This meant that the hot water was continually leaking out and spilling into the basement. And, as the water continued to leak, the boiler kept refilling and reheating even more warm water to be wasted. Because our boiler was large enough that we still could shower in the morning, the problem was not noticed for days, until I went into the basement and found it flooded. Based on the spike in my energy bill, plus the increase of monthly deposit, it must have been leaking for a time. But we didn’t know about the leak. Why didn’t this new “smart” energy meter tell us we were wasting energy? The smart energy meter was not very smart now was it?