Latest buzzword, deconstructed: "Internet of Things."

I’m working on a few “Internet of Things” (IoT) projects for a fairly big manufacturing company right now. Yadda yadda nondisclosure, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

A minute ago I saw an article on LinkedIn by Pavan Singh at Cisco: “Six Myths About The Internet Of Things.” I contributed this response:

Myth: IoT is a new, unprecedented paradigm–a break from everything that came before it.

Reality: IoT is convenient shorthand for the slow trend towards connecting more “things” to IP networks and often feeding them into “Big Data” endeavors. The underlying technology isn’t that new and most of the applications aren’t terribly exotic; it’s just an acknowledgement that people are finding lots of use cases that weren’t cost-effective until recently.

Management people sometimes get a little too hepped up on buzzwords. Is it “Internet of Things” to run highway toll collections on transponders? Is it “Internet of Things” if you track a lost dog by what wifi networks it pings while wandering?

It’s not like nobody thought of this stuff before. It’s not like we weren’t doing it before. Mainly it’s a) come to the attention of the wider software industry, people who are used to working with computers rather than “things”; and b) the prices on embedded, deployable, and networked devices have come down so much that we can afford to mess around and experiment and deploy things en masse that wouldn’t have been practical even a few years ago.

Like most buzzwords, IoT isn’t that big a deal when you break it down into what the tools are and what they actually do. Honestly, IoT implementations largely consist of really small computers in places where normal computers don’t make sense. Don’t underestimate the power of a catchy moniker.