A sunny Saturday afternoon, I'm just back home from grocery shopping, and the living room is boiling hot with my entire family breaking out in complaints. I turn up the air condition to achieve a pleasant room temperature for lunch. After the meal I'm looking forward to a nap in the bedroom. However, in here, it's freezing with the air diffuser being straight above the bed. The breeze coming down onto my bed will probably make me dream about the South Pole. Sound familiar?
Now, an adjustable air vent outlet would be nice, wouldn't it? Especially if you don't have to buy a new and expensive HVAC system for the entire home or open the walls for cabling and control devices. Just replacing the fixed air diffuser by a variable one, remotely controlled by my smart phone. No cable, no dirt, no batteries. I know, it sounds like a dream, but it's not. That's already reality today, and gives us a feeling of the Internet of Things, the IoT.
Since last year, everybody is dreaming and talking about the Internet of Things, including myself. But that's not enough. We have reached the point where we need to go ahead and put the plans into actions. There are two major challenges in my mind that OEM and service providers participating in building the IoT will have to solve before gaining traction: to attract the consumer and define interoperable communication.
The wireless, self-powered, variable air diffuser looks interesting to me and maybe to a few more people, but is that enough? A solution that pays off needs to hit the critical mass. Many IoT product and service ideas, including smart home equipment, have achieved mediocre consumer acceptance at best so far. To change this, OEMs need to work closely with consumers before defining their products, to meet their needs — respective to function, usability, design, and price. You can have the best operating product; if the design is not attractive, nobody will buy it.
Another challenge is the communication among all these new gadgets that are supposed to be smart enough to participate in the IoT. Today, each market segment has defined its own “language.” Building automation, lighting, metering, smartphones, industrial automation, medical — they all have well established communication protocols and methods. The players will need to get together and agree upon common methods that include everything in the future. From the first prototype, manufacturers will have to think about how a new device can interact and communicate with other devices, bridging standards. Otherwise IoT will never achieve its full potential.
Since the acquisition of Nest by Google, the drive behind the IoT and, in particular, the home automation market, has been accelerated to the next level. This is the chance for all of us to not only dream about but start to actively develop the IoT and finally solve these challenges so that as consumers we will all enjoy the outcome.