The Thing About the Internet of Things: Digital Life Dragged Down by the Analog World

If things are moving so fast, why haven't we caught up yet? Why can't my stove automatically set a timer for 10 minutes every time I turn a burner on--and why can't I receive that alarm on my iPhone while I'm upstairs, in time to rush back down and save dinner? I'm thrilled that the Nest thermostat is out there. But it is simultaneously cool while reminding us that this transition to the Internet of things (IoT) where everything is connected up is going to be a long slog. Okay, faster than chipping our way out of the Stone Age. Still.

What's the problem? If I can imagine all these things connected to the internet (and I just know you can, too), why is Nest so... rare? A Google search turns up a raft of articles about how every whiz bang invention in this category is just around the corner. Consider Your House: The Next Great Digital Network. Or how about this McKinsey Report simply titled The Internet of Things, that promises the IoT will "create new business models, improve business processes, and reduce costs and risks." Theses articles read like they were written yesterday, but the first is a year old and the McKinsey document was penned in 2010. Their enduring relevance speaks to the fact that we are stuck. More recent articles make the same prediction: it's all "just around the corner."

Have you been whiz banged around enough?

Programmableweb has also done our part to egg on this revolution, with Mark Boyd's article on Xively, for example.

Brian Proffitt cuts to the chase with an explanation of the things that just get in the way. In What's Holding Up the Internet of Things, his list of problems looks like this:

  • No Lingua Franca
  • A Tower of Babble
  • Too Many Regional Dialects
  • and Economic Incentives to get device makers to jump into the fray.

I would add one more: money. So many of us will delay upgrading to the Internet of things for a simple reason: we can't afford it. That could well create a money lag. Time--digital or otherwise--will tell.

Be sure to read the next Internet of Things article: Electric Imp: The Internet of Things Roars Back