There is no Internet of Things just yet

Sarah Rotman Epps/Forrester Research
22 Oct 2013

More than a decade ago — in May 2001 — Forrester authored a report heralding the coming of the X Internet, or extended internet, defined as “internet devices and applications that sense, analyze, and control the real world.” We proclaimed that “the web is fading fast . . . smart devices will push the scale of the internet far beyond today’s PC-based net.”

Turns out that the vision we laid out in 2001 still hasn’t come to fruition. While enterprises in healthcare, manufacturing, and utilities are well down the path of the X Internet — better known today as the Internet of Things, the industrial internet, or in Cisco Systems' parlance, the Internet of Everything — consumer adoption and general business adoption of sensor devices and services are just getting started.

The sensor-laden consumer products that are starting to hit the market are “smart” in sensing and relaying information about the physical bodies wearing them or the physical environments they inhabit — a phenomenon we call “smart body, smart world.” But these smart products could get a lot smarter: Today they are largely fragmented and not as useful as they could be.

By and large, these devices don’t talk to each other, and don’t integrate with larger “systems of engagement” that deliver value for consumers and enterprises. 94Fifty’s Bluetooth basketball can sense dribble force and shot angle. Nike Hyperdunk Plus basketball shoes can tell you how fast you’re running and how high you’re jumping. And the Under Armour Armour39 shirt knows your heart rate and lung capacity. But you could be using all three of these devices at the same time, and they wouldn’t even know they were playing the same game: They are three products from three separate manufacturers, and the data they collect is siloed in their own separate apps.

To stick with the basketball analogy, imagine that you’re sitting in the new stadium for the San Francisco Warriors, which is scheduled to be finished by 2017. Now imagine that the players are using the devices we’ve described above and that you can vote on who needs a break based on players’ real-time biometrics via a “you be the coach” mobile app. The stadium effects — lighting and sound — are coordinated with the excitement of the game, as measured by collective heart rate. Perhaps your own biometrics feed into these effects via a wristband that also serves as your non-scalpable ticket and concessions payment device (the concessions come to you at your seat, like an Uber app for hot dogs).

The sensor devices required to implement this scenario exist today, but the systems for managing the data flow need some work. Today, data in a basketball stadium may reside in multiple systems of record, such as customer relationship management (CRM) for ticketing and inventory systems for concessions. A smarter stadium would have this data — and lots more, thanks to ubiquitous sensors — integrated into dynamic “systems of engagement” to enable smart services like the ones we’ve described.

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