Another year, another crop of tech predictions. Not wanting to feel left out, here are some collective thoughts from the team on how the Internet of Things will shape up in 2014. (Be interesting to see how CES fits with these predictions, or not as the case may be).
We expect to see more simpler to use devices and toolkits (e.g. spark.io, wifi-based devices that you can plug, play, and code, etc), that are easier to embed in existing consumer electronics with less integration complexity. Also more home automation fuelled by wifi modules that can be added to any existing device like the aforementioned Spark, the flyport and the Electric Imp.
Reassuringly, these are what we think of as ‘Web of Things’ rather than ‘Internet of Things’ examples, meaning they use open Web standards not closed protocols, such as REST APIs with HTTP over Wifi.
We’ll see a wider adoption of lightweight Web-based push-eventing-messaging tools and libraries like websockets, especially towards “messaging-as-a-service” (cloud providers can serve as “Gmail” equivalents for non-continuously connected devices).
Plus iBeacons and Bluetooth 4, and other low power messaging devices (in parallel with NFC) will become part of the IoT landscape.
Cars are supposed to be the new connected physical-digital space that will help mass-market adoption of IoT services, but we haven’t seen anything special to suggest this is picking up speed. Did we miss some major Connected Cars announcement where all the manufacturers got together and proposed some vehicle technology “to bind them” all?
Although we’re interested in stuff like the strategic partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Pebble smart watches to let drivers find their cars, get alerts on traffic hazards and route congestion, monitor fuel levels and such. Or Audi, supposedly developing in-car entertainment and information services using Android.
But given that connected cars and V2V communications and so on have been hot topics for a while now, unless there’s something really disruptive we haven’t spotted, then we’re not sure why this year cars will be the things that drives IoT adoption (see what we did there), at least from a driver/consumer pov.
Mass consumer adoption of IoT tech in 2014 is most likely to come from Wearables. In fact, we reckon Wearables are going to get pretty huge this year. You can see it with the number of sports products and personal instrumentation products to do with our health: glucose, blood, sleep monitoring, weight, et al – not to mention the health of our plants and pets.
There are a tremendous amount of these kinds of things coming on to the market now, and in addition to being stand alone propositions we’re beginning to see some wider integration into the health and wellness industry like connecting fitness data with health insurance premiums, gym programs and so on.
There’s a huge amount of buzz about Wearables at CES 2014 (admittedly a similar hype for 3D TVs last year didn’t exactly live up to expectations) and an 11,500 square foot area dedicated to sports and fitness self-tracking tech. According to Bloomberg, almost 10% of the firms exhibiting this year are in the digital health market.
PAN vs. LAN
Closely linked to Wearables computing is the smartphone as a PAN (Personal Area Network) hub. There’s an argument that this is more important than the ‘home network hub’ based on your residential WiFi LAN (Local Area Network) which everyone seems to be concentrating on.
These PANs are in the form of low energy Bluetooth and personal WiFi networks emanating from your smartphones to let you connect with stuff you’re wearing or products you’re interacting with. The scale of the infrastructure of these PANs is now pretty robust. This space is definitely fueled by the compatibility of iOS and Android devices for Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE). Incidentally, that’s what all these new car plugs-ins are making use of – gaining Web connectivity via the owner/driver’s smartphone.
We reckon in 2014 there will be a lot more connecting of physical things and networking together apps, devices, people and things through people’s smartphone PANs rather than contactless technology like NFC.
We can also expect to see consumer adoption of IoT in semi-autonomous robotic devices. The drones phenomena, for instance, and in-home robotics. Robot devices like the Roomba vacuum cleaner have been around for quite some time, but now we have the growing in-home, semi autonomous connected devices for remote controlling our temperature, lighting, security, safety, cleaning, air sensors, and so on.
Units like these are becoming more broadly deployed. – the Nest thermostat and smoke alarm being obvious examples – their thermostats were selling over 40,000 per month a year ago; not sure what the latest stats are but they must be closing in on a million units sold?
As an anecdotal indicator, Niall’s local gardening centre on the outskirts of Geneva – the kind of place you go to buy hosepipes and shrubs – had a robotic lawnmower for sale. Think Roomba for lawns – i.e. it maps the garden then mows it. Interesting that household robots are showing up in places like this as well as Best Buy on the High Street.
As technology moves out of the screen-based world and into the real world via the clothes and accessories we wear and the physical things and environments we interact within, I hope we can expect a new wave of creativity mashing-up atoms and bits – combining Web experiences, content and applications with the physical world in remarkable and inspiring ways.
For instance, UP band has opened up its APIs for people to combine with all manner of things, like their smart scales or lights or alarm clocks (e.g. turn off the lights automatically when you turn your UP band off at night). Or apps like Disney StoryLight interactive iPad book for kids that sync with your Philips Hue bulbs so the mood lighting around you changes to match the story narrative. Expect more of this kind of thing, with the fabulous IFTTT leading the line.
That’s it. If you think we’ve missed anything, got anything horribly wrong, agree or disagree violently, or just want to add your 2c then any and all feedback welcome.
Here’s to an amazing 2014 and HNY one and all.
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Wearable Technology icon by Yellow Chip from The Noun Project
Bluetooth Icon by Thomas Le Bas from The Noun Project
Robot Icon by Drew Ellis from The Noun Project
Code Icon by Brennan Novak from The Noun Project