Blog Post

What’s driving the internet of things?

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Transcription details:
Date:
18-Oct-2013
Input sound file:
10-17 pm session 2_1002.MP3

Transcription results:
Session Name: What’s Driving the Internet of Things?
Speakers:
Chris Albrecht
Greg Duffy

Chris Albrecht 00:02
Thank you Katy. Up next, we’re going to discover “What’s Driving the Internet of Things?” It’s going to be presented to you by Greg Duffy, the CEO of DropCam. Please welcome Greg to the stage.
Greg Duffy 00:21
Hi everyone. I’m Greg from DropCam. I’m going to ask you to imagine something. Imagine your world where all your devices are connected. That would actually be a really stupid world, wouldn’t it? This is actually a terrible question to ask people to consider. The average consumer – the way I like to put it, does not want their toilet connected to their toaster. That’s probably one of the biggest problems with the internet of things and something that we at DropCam are trying to think about a lot. I’ve heard a lot of examples of, when you ask somebody this question, you’re actually putting all the ownest onto the user to do the hard part. Imagining is the hard part. Connecting all the devices is actually relatively easy.
Greg Duffy 01:06
Deciding what to do with that connection is the hard part. I’ve seen lots of examples of things printed. When people talk about this possibility, one that I’ve heard that was particularly annoying to me was – let’s say you’re sitting at your computer with Microsoft Word and it’s about 10 minutes, you haven’t put in a single word – maybe you have writers block, so your amazing world where all of your devices are connected, your coffeepot automatically detects this and brews a pot of coffee for you. This is probably the example of the end of the world, where all of your devices are connected. Nobody actually wants this. Would you actually want this? Think about it. Other things are very subtle.
Greg Duffy 01:55
People often say, “Well, I want to be able to turn my light on and off when I’m away from home.” But there’s a philosophical question here. If I have a Smart Light in my home and I turn it on from afar, but nobody’s there to see it, does it actually happen? We have to ask these questions. The companies that are trying to push the internet of things, we have that responsibility to users to actually deliver them something better than just asking them to use their imagination. The internet of things, probably, we need to stop talking about that and start saying, “The internet of useful things.” I’d like to talk a little bit about, what the internet of useful things is. So having a hardware that connects to the internet is clearly not enough as we’ve just started talking about.
Greg Duffy 02:52
It’s actually about what you do with software. The internet of things is all about the software – what you actually enable people to do with this devices. Examples are: What if I want to save energy and control the heating in my house? This is Nest; What if I want to unlock my door when I have a guest who doesn’t have a key? Lockitron; How do I stay healthy everyday and give myself goals – measure my steps and helps me stay fit? Fitbit; How do I know what going on at home when I’m not there? DropCam. Without the software that enables to use devices, you wouldn’t have this renaissance of hardware. So people a focusing a little bit too much on the things versus what people are actually able to accomplish with the internet of useful things.
Greg Duffy 03:46
It’s kind of like, if we had said the most important part of the internet – it’s soft, was the switches and the routers and the wires that make it up versus what people are able to do on the internet. I think that there’s a bunch of hurdles and challenges to the internet of things as well. We want people to be able to do useful things. We want to help them not have to use their imagination. We want to let them do some of these used cases, but there’s actually a bunch of infrastructural change that has to happen to enable that internet of useful things. I grew up in the US and I’ve never had to utter this phrase before, I’m used to, “We’re number one.” But when it comes to the internet, we’re actually number 20. What does this mean?
Greg Duffy 04:39
When it comes to broadband penetration in the US – a key part of developing something like the internet of things, we’re actually number 20. We’re so far behind in getting internet to people and getting faster internet to people. It’s not really setup for change right now. So in San Francisco for example, we actually have a relatively good broadband and mobile connectivity, but you still have five gigabyte caps on your mobile or upload speeds at home that are less than a megabit per second. It’s not very different from the way that it was 10 years ago, even in the tech capital of the world. In the rest of the US, it’s actually even worse. It’s basically just a duopoly of AT&T and Comcast. They’re really stifling innovations – stifling connecting devices, especially video devices that use a lot of bandwidth by capping your speeds.
Greg Duffy 05:34
Since there’s no mark at economy there, they’re not really incentivized to change it. Why are we the 20th in the world? It’s definitely that we haven’t created a market there. They’re answer to this is interesting. They’re saying that, “We want to give you all these extra bandwidth, but to show us what people are going to with it first.” It’s like, if Apple had said, “We’re not going to invent the iPhone until there are thousands of useful apps for you to download.” It’s kind of putting the cart before the hoarse. I think the message that we need to send to our broadband providers, as users, as companies that are trying to build internet of things is, there are tons of useful things that people want to do.
Greg Duffy 06:26
Applications, like the DropCams, Nest, Fitbits and Lockitrons are waiting for the connectivity to exist in homes, so that we can enable this. We really want their support in building the internet of useful things. I hope that you all get a chance to go out and try some of these products and see how they can make your life better. I hope you don’t get too confused by all of the internet of not so useful things that are out there now. I’d love to take questions on the internet of things if they exist and why we should redefine that term or even what’s going on in the world of broadband today. I got a question back there.
Audience Member 1 07:14
[inaudible]
Greg Duffy 07:28
Yes, absolutely. This is a common question that we get. The internet of things is actually about the inoperability between devices that are in the internet of things spectrum. This is another great example of making sure that we build useful things first. At DropCam, our product is a WiFi camera. You use it to see what’s going on at home when you’re away. We’re number one in camera and photo on Amazon, it’s a used case that resonates with people. That’s not to actually brag about that particular success. It’s actually to say, “Start off with the used cases that people really want and then grow from there.”
Greg Duffy 08:13
In building the internet of useful things, inoperability is something that we’re asking users to use their imagination a little too much at first. We think, that instead let’s build some pillars in the internet of things. Let’s build a foundation and then start exposing APIs to connect these things together in ways that still delivers something useful. A little too much flexibility early on can actually create confusion for the user. Lively audience here. Anyone else?
Audience Member 2 08:59
On your own product, you’re selling about $200 right now, right? Does it devolve into just an app that runs on decommissioned smartphones and tablets?
Greg Duffy 09:10
That’s an interesting question. There’s a misconception here. If you take this too far, saying that software is what the internet of things is about. The hardware is still important, it’s a vector for the software. In our case, the camera is designed for the used case of being able to see what’s going on at home. We have a wide-angled lens versus the 40 or 50 degrees that you would have on an iPhone. That means that you an see the entire room versus just the tiny sliver of it. We also have night vision, so you can see when it’s dark. All the features of DropCam are built that. I think, in the same way that other devices, like Nest for example, you could theoretically build it on a device that wasn’t yours that you built.
Greg Duffy 10:04
But it wouldn’t be purpose-built for the used case that users have and that leaves a market opportunity. You’re shortcoming by being on a device that doesn’t do those things, leaves a market opportunity for software and services that has a supporting device that allows you to cover that used case better. I don’t know if that answers your question. Purpose-built devices are still an important part of the internet of things. It’s 4:38, you guys are ready for dinner. Anyone else? I think that covers it then. Thanks every one.

One Response to “What’s driving the internet of things?”

  1. Harsha Srivatsa

    I dont fully understand the concept of useful things. There are things already out there that can be connected to digital universe. Are you saying that these things like sensors, machines etc. not useful things?