Why the Internet of Things Faces a Painful Path to Adoption

Loraine Lawson
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How the Internet of Things Will Change Our Lives

Jason Bloomberg thinks the Internet of Things is doomed. He has a long post to prove it, too.

I say he’s absolutely right, even as he’s wrong.

After I wrote about the Internet of Things on Friday, Bloomberg sent me a link to his recent post, “Seven Reasons Why the Internet of Things is Doomed.”

It turns out that Bloomberg, an analyst and president of Intellyx, is much more skeptical about the Internet of Things than I am. I see it as full of potential business value — but then again, the focus of this blog is on organizations, not the individual.

Bloomberg isn’t so encumbered. He lists all the reasons for concern for both individuals and businesses: Security, privacy, vendor lock-in and legacy architectures top the list.

Bloomberg has watched technology too long to be naive about adoption. He knows the cycles because he’s lived them the past 12 years as president of the service-oriented architecture consultancy ZapThink. Great ideas falter before proprietary solutions and half-hearted implementations.

And he’s right: The Internet of Things is doomed… doomed to endure that roller-coaster ride on the path to adoption.

That’s why he’s also wrong when he says it’s doomed, which is a paradox he more or less acknowledges when he writes:

“Do I really think the Internet of Things is doomed, or do I believe there are solutions to these problems? I consider myself an optimist, especially when it comes to technological progress, but my core prediction is that the IoT will struggle to find its way. It will eventually arrive, but not in the forms that people envision today.”

The real debate isn’t about adoption, then, but about nuance: How much will the IoT deliver on its over-hyped promise? How painful will the journey be?

I suspect it will be pretty darn painful. For instance, while I agree with all of the points Bloomberg identifies as problematic, I don’t think they will necessarily deter adoption for some. As evidence, I call to the stand Facebook, which has endured most of the problems he cites — invading privacy, a lack of open standards, security issues — yet enjoys widespread adoption and use.

One important question Bloomberg raises is whether the so-called “Industrial Internet” is actually the Internet of Things. Most of what we’re calling the Industrial Internet is actually machine-to-machine, he points out, and it’s much different from the Internet of Things.

“Sorry to disappoint – but the Industrial Internet is really quite different than the IoT this article has been skewering. The difference?” Bloomberg writes. “Nobody in their right mind would actually put a turbine or a locomotive on the Internet – that is, the phishing-crazy, porn-laden, NSA-targeted Internet we all know and love. That’s what private networks are for. Right?”

If only. Absolutely, it would be smart if these networks were private. After all, we already know foreign hackers are targeting utilities.

Alas, businesses are using the Internet to connect sensors. I suspect it could be because private networks are not financially or even architecturally viable, given the global nature of supply chains. That’s why companies abandoned dedicated EDI VANS for B2B integration in exchange for B2B gateways that leveraged the Internet. In recent years, some companies have moved those functions completely to the cloud.

That’s not to negate Bloomberg’s seven points. As I wrote Friday, to be useful, the Internet of Things has to be about the data, not the devices. That makes Bloomberg’s warnings all the more critical to consider as we plan for an all-too-connected future.

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