There seems to be a consensus that the year ahead will bring an explosion of smart connected devices, especially in the digital healthcare industry. For most professionals, this is the beginning of the Internet of Things. Or is it?
What do we mean by such an emphatic term as the Internet of Things? Are we following in the web and mobile Internet’s footsteps by being at the dawn of a new big wave of the Internet’s evolution that is going to shake everything from business and politics, to our way of living, working and learning? Or is it a micro anecdotal phenomenon that will launch new gadgets in a few sectors for the coming three years? Are we merely talking about the Internet of Pedometers or a kind of Internet/Web 3.0 greater than anything we have already seen?
If the Internet of Things is bound to become a real in-depth revolution, the average user will not have four or five but 50-100 devices that communicate in one way or another. In that case, would you be willing to comply with the special routines and operation modes they require, charge their batteries every few weeks, and for each one synchronize their data with the cloud? Would you spend $ 100 to $ 200 for each device so that it can handle one of your micro needs from time to time? Would you want notifications from all 50 devices every time they feel something? In other words, what is conceivable as our current gadget-scarce world becomes unbearable past five or six devices.
Having more devices is not just a matter of number or larger power strips; it brings about a crucial question regarding their design. More is different. A large scale Internet of Things is not just a matter of having extra IP addresses; we need to design sensors and devices that will blend gracefully into the lives of users who will have hundreds of them.
If we think that the Internet of Things is the Next Big Thing, we will need to rethink the design of things. Until now, we have been living with a handful of smart connected objects: a computer, a smart phone, maybe a game console and fitness gadgets. Letting people learn how to use these devices and changing their behavior to comply with the devices’ requirements is conceivable. However, when it comes to dozens of objects, this becomes intolerable. The concern is to make all these appliances blend into people’s lives with a minimum of disruptions.
They should seamlessly upload their data to the cloud and be smart enough to understand the spontaneous gestures one makes in one’s everyday life without the need for translation. They should not require any buttons, touch, voice activation, special choreography or frequent battery replacement. They should learn my behavior without needing to be programmed and continuously adapt.
Dumb parrot-like appliances will need to be replaced by systems able to provide filtered, punctual, contextual and accurate notifications. Instead of receiving notifications from my refrigerator door whenever it is left open, I would like to only be informed if it has not been opened when it should have (late night snacking). We will need truly smart objects, not just because Smart is a cool selling buzzword, but because dumbness doesn’t scale. To become smarter, devices need to be fit for learning.
In order for the Internet of Things to emerge, sensors and devices need to become completely transparent. These objects are not going to change our habits, just enrich our lives and help make us healthier. They can encourage us to stay active, remind us to take our medication, analyse our sleeping patterns, and monitor our water in-take.
One might say that it is therefore somewhat ironic that we are at the dawn of the Internet of Things. For several decades, our interactions with the digital world have inevitably gone through dedicated Things we have had to master: computers, phones, game consoles and the like. Moving forward, we will be able to connect life directly and spontaneously, with a device in the middle that will become more and more invisible. We should rather consider that we are at the end of the Internet of Things and at the dawn of the Internet of Life.
Sen.se founder and CEO rafi Haladjian started Photo Gaston, his first business, at age 15 in his dad’s garage in the midst of the Lebanese civil war bombings. While studying semiotics, rafi accidentally stumbled upon the world of telecom networks, devices connected to them and their potential uses, and he has never turned back. He was involved in the fascinating adventure of the Minitel (French precursor of the Web) from its inception in the 1980s. In 1994, he founded FranceNet, the very first French Internet company, which he sold to British Telecom in 2003 to start working on the post-web world. He created Ozone, a pervasive wireless network operator that covered 65% of Paris thanks to WiFi antennas placed on roofs and based on a viral community model. He also founded Violet, a pioneer in the Internet of Things, which won global acclaim with its iconic product — Nabaztag, the smart rabbit.