The world of connected devices has certainly been the media darling of late– and rightly so. Nest was just acquired for a whopping $3.2B by Google. Snupi just raised over $7.4M in Series A funding. And 2013 was a banner year for venture capital investing, with big data, mobile, digital health and the internet of things topping the charts. Hot off the press!
Still more (digital) ink has been devoted to this increasingly popular trend; just today, a Forbes’ headline touted a “new perspective on the Internet of Things. ” Thinfilm’s Davor Sutija describes that “about a trillion sensors are required to power [a] billion connected devices.” Sutija defies industry giants Cisco and IBM with an alternative definition of the “internet of things,” espousing a peer-to-peer device-centric definition of this term of art (vs. the “traditional” definition, centered on the network).
But if you’ve been on the sidelines or in the trenches with IT developments of the last 30+ years, none of this is new, or even news.
The debate between centralization and decentralization is as old as the information technology industry itself. Much (actual) ink was spilled as the pendulum swung between peer-to-peer and client-server architecture. But at the end of the day, from where we’re sitting, there is no “pure” peer-to-peer, nor “pure” client-server universe. The heart doesn’t think and the brain doesn’t pump blood, so the body needs both.
With the “internet of things,” or in the case of Think Automatic, in the “smart home,” or back in the 90′s when I was in Microsoft Research, for what we called “ubiquitous computing,” the heart is the user experience. The brain is the learning algorithm software. And the nervous system is made up of the network of “things” that benefit from and respond to the intelligence of the brain.
Whatever you want to call it, the “Internet of Things” isn’t new. With the benefit of Moore’s law (such that every 18 months technology is twice as powerful at half the cost), micro-controllers are now as powerful as the supercomputers of 30 years ago, and the notion of a trillion sensors can become an affordable reality. Eighty years ago, Dick Tracy’s creators had the imagination. Fifty years ago the Jetsons and Star Trek had the vision. Today, enabling technology, the investment community and the consumer are finally catching up.