The idea of an internet-connected toaster is, for now, a stupid idea: the average person doesn’t care how many Pop Tarts they consume, and no one wants to rewire their entire home to make all their devices talk to each other.
That’s the perspective of Paul Brody, VP of internet of things at IBM, who offered up some refreshing skepticism about the much-hyped IOT while speaking at Gigaom’s Structure Connect event in San Francisco on Wednesday.
“[It’s] a classic bubble phase,” said Brody, referring to a glut of half-baked business plans that are based on connecting an everyday device to the internet, and then selling the harvested data.
He added that it’s a waste of time for companies to start storing every piece of data they can get their hands on, and that some firms say they want to do this just because they hear that’s what everyone else is doing.
“Most of what we’re storing is useless, and the amount of money people will spend on it is zero,” Brody told Gigaom Research director Caroline McCrory.
He also cast doubt on the value, for now, of the connected home and the utility of product darlings like Nest. Brody remarked that, while he was among the first to wire his locks and his lights to the internet, his family finds the experience a nuisance.
“The biggest issue with a smart home is it’s not a better home,” he said, adding that smart devices like those powered by IFTTT are great technology but are just not “smart enough” yet.
The good news in all of this, however, is that connected devices do have a place, provided that they are seen in an appropriate context. According to Brody, the current problem with IoT mania is that people are presenting it as a visionary idea, rather than a series of tactical innovations.
“I’m a big believer that the internet of things will grow one very compelling use case at a time,” he said.
This means that the idea of striving for a uniform platform that will link phones to fridges to toasters is, and will remain, a hopeless idea. But in the meantime, companies in the space can thrive if they “create little monopolies one at a time.”
As for IBM, he says to be on the look-out for a proof-of-use concept that it will unveil at CES in January, that will show the use of the bitcoin-blockchain in action as a tool to record device transactions.
Brody also stressed that the key to the internet of things will be the longevity of systems and devices, and for that developers should embrace open source systems as much as possible.
Photo by Jakub Mosur