Pcpro April 2014

The Internet of Things (IoT) might be traced back to a coffee pot in the University of Cambridge’s Trojan Room. Its levels were monitored via the internet in the early 1990s, although the term Internet of Things didn’t begin to percolate until the very end of that decade.

Originally IoT was used to describe how RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags could be used to monitor the commercial supply chain at Procter & Gamble. Since then it has gone on to incorporate almost everything that can be connected to the internet. Indeed, its alternative name is the Internet of Everything and includes connected devices as diverse as fridges and cars, televisions and medical equipment, baby monitors etc.

Cisco estimates that there are already 10 billion devices connected to the internet and before the decade is out that number will be 500 billion.

With numbers like this, and broadband connectivity becoming an increasing reality for consumers both inside the home and office as well as when on the move, there’s a good argument to be made that every business is becoming an IoT business.
Google recently acquired smart connected home thermostat and smoke alarm outfit, Nest, for almost £2 billion – evidence that even the biggest businesses realise that either they join in and disrupt, or risk being disrupted themselves.

Car manufacturers are increasingly including internet connectivity into their vehicle designs, and unlikely partnerships (such as between Ford and Microsoft) are starting to emerge. But it’s the small players, the individual app developers who are producing the software to connect products in new and intriguing ways, who hold the real power. These developers are being courted by the corporates, and that’s where disruption is being felt. Further upheaval is likely to come in the area of compatibility, with consumers wanting devices to talk to one another, irrespective of who made them or what operating system they run. If the Internet of Things can drive a wedge into the proprietary straightjacket that so much technology is currently restrained by, then it might just be the most disruptive technology ever…