The Unintended Consequences of IoT (Internet of Things) Deployment

by Yoram Solomon

The Unintended Consequences of IoT (Internet of Things) Deployment

Three of the most hyped technologies in recent years include Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Internet of Thing (IoT).

And how do I know that they are hyped? Because in August 2018, Gartner published its latest hype cycle report for emerging technologies, putting IoT barely past the “peak of inflated expectations” (that’s when we believe the technology can do everything, including cure cancer and create world peace). I should add here that “Connected Home,” a version of IoT, was marked on the Gartner chart as heading towards the “trough of disillusionment,” (when we realize the promises cannot be delivered) and if it survives it, it will begin to climb the “slope of enlightenment,” and finally reach the “plateau of productivity,” where the real usage for this technology will enter main market and be successful and profitable. Only a percentage of all technologies every reach the plateau of productivity, and typically with only some of the originally envisioned applications. Many technologies won’t survive the trough of disillusionment.

But I didn’t wait for that to happen. I’ll admit, I’m a geek and an early adopter of technologies. I was very early in adopting that wireless technology that allowed my laptop to be connected to the company’s Ethernet (not to mention the Internet) without wires. You know, the one called 802.11b, after the IEEE standards that defined it. The one you may know better as Wi-Fi…

And so, I adopted a few IoT devices. The first IoT device to enter our home was called iFit, and connected my treadmill to the Internet, allowing me to track my workouts. At least on the treadmill. I used that until the free subscription ended. I wasn’t ready to pay $9.99 per month after that… The second one was a connected irrigation system from Irrigation Caddy. It allowed me to monitor and control my irrigation system remotely. Then I purchased IoT-based light switches, a Ring doorbell, a surveillance camera, and I’m sure I’m missing a few devices.

Until two of those devices stopped working. Specifically, the light switches and the irrigation controller. It’s not that they completely stopped working, they just couldn’t be controlled remotely over the Internet anymore. They could be controlled locally, through my local Wi-Fi network, until I upgraded my phone, and the controlling app was no longer available at the app store. Then I couldn’t control those devices locally anymore…

Why would that happen?

It’s simple. The architecture of an IoT system is different than direct-connection control. The device communicates with an Internet portal (at the “Cloud”), and your control device, be it your smart phone, tablet, or computer connects to that portal to control the device.

So far, so good. What’s the problem, then?

The problem is that the portal is owned and maintained by a company. Typically, the company that built the device, but sometimes a company that sold you the device, or just the service. Both Irrigation Caddy (of Austin, Texas) and the Chinese company that built and sold the Internet-controlled light switches went out of business. Their portals no longer exist. Their apps are no longer available on any app store.

Since those devices were created relying on your phone, tablet, or computer as the main user interface, the manual user interface on the device itself is typically, well, unusable, rendering the entire device unusable.

The unintended consequence, and one more thing to think about when you deploy IoT technologies.

 
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Dr. Yoram Solomon is an inventor, creativity researcher, coach, consultant, and trainer to large companies and employees. His Ph.D. examines why people are more creative in startup companies than in mature ones. Yoram was a professor of Technology and Industry Forecasting at the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UT Dallas School of Management; is active in regional innovation and tech transfer; and is a speaker and author on predicting technology future and identifying opportunities for market disruption. Follow @yoram