Connecting Things to the Internet Does Not an Internet of Things Make

May 9th, 2013

Liat Ben-Zur:

So what’s the problem? Aren’t all these hot new connected IoT devices connected up to the cloud? Well, that’s the problem. We are oversimplifying the landscape. Each specific device seems to connect to its particular cloud service. There isn’t really one cloud. Every manufacturer has their own cloud service, and often these clouds are closed, proprietary environments. Devices that live in their own siloed cloud cannot speak to one another, meaning they cannot benefit from the data, context or control of nearby IoT devices. That is why we currently need a separate app to control — and interface with — each connected thing we buy. This may be acceptable in the near term, but it cannot scale.

That’s not just a problem for Internet-connected devices, either; we have more web services than ever before, but they’re increasingly walled gardens. Beautiful gardens, maybe, but locking up so much data and so much user data is holding back the web’s development.

Health is a great example. We have weight tracking applications, meal tracking applications, exercise tracking applications and devices, sleep tracking applications—and hardly any of them speak to each other. That data should be combined for users, because it’s health data, and it’s their health data, but it’s mostly locked up into a number of different services.

That needs fixed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to build a feature someone else already does, but it should only be done when it makes sense. Every new service and device should not be an island unto itself.