Friday, February 20, 2015

IoT Is Not Mobile on the Wall

I’ve started listening to a16z podcasts during some meals. I recommend them if you're interested in the future of technology. About a month ago I listened to this fascinating conversation between Benedict Evans, Preethi Kasireddy, and Zal Bilmoria, though I'm just getting around to writing about it now (better late than never). Post-CES, they try to tackle the question of, where is this Internet of Things we keep hearing about? Is there an Internet of Things, or is it just “things connected to the Internet”?

Around 1:49 Benedict Evans makes the most compelling argument: our grandparents could have told us how many electric motors they owned: one in the car, one in the fridge, and one in the vacuum cleaner; and now motors are so common that the side mirror of your car probably has a dozen. But no one goes out and buys electric motors; they buy a microwave, a blender, a coffee machine, etc. – devices that solve a problem that just happen have an electric motor as part of the solution. So it is with the IoT: other than early adopters. it will enter our lives slowly, as we buy device that solve our problems by adding a bit more intelligence to existing devices, a bit at a time.

The analogy makes sense, but it has one fatal flaw: the functionality of electric motors is self-contained (with the exception of transportation, but we are discussing household devices here), whereas connected devices are not self-contained by definition.