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The sparkle seems to have gone out of the Internet of Things (IoT) market for the moment, and this is a problem because it means my Star Trek lifestyle is now on hold.
The ambitious Google Glass project was shelved recently amid tepid market response and cultural backlash. The smart watch market has yet to ramp to early expectations; people seem to be waiting for Apple’s version.
Wearables and other IoT devices at Consumer Electronics Show didn’t seem to have the buzz they enjoyed in 2014. The first generation of wearables, in fact, has been commoditized. And then there are many point-to-point IoT applications (a Bluetooth-enabled pot-watering system, as my colleague Brian Fuller pointed out on EE Times) that seem to lack useful logical networking hooks.
We can’t point to either of those as the cause of a lackluster IoT market, but they’re a part of a larger challenge. In the IoT, single-function wearables and single-function IoT devices have commoditized rapidly as I mentioned, but even among those commoditized devices, I don't believe they have mastered the user experience.
Right now the devices and systems on the market are connectivity driven; they're not problem-solving at a higher level. The higher level is where we need to go.
Imagine an IP camera that you put in the home today for surveillance. Right now, home surveillance devices observe a distant space and send you alerts when there’s movement. If you look on the app you can see what caused the movement. But these types of devices don’t really analyze what you do.
At that higher level I mentioned, we need to analyze behavior and predict actions and needs. In other words, the machine needs to understand what you're going to do before you actually do it.
We humans are getting more and more to the point where we understand that the purpose of our electronics devices is to make our lives more convenient. So the user interface becomes hugely important (I wrote about this last summer). Right now we have a largely unnatural human interface and this is what’s delaying my Star Trek lifestyle.
In that lifestyle, IoT is something that blends into our world; it’s blended so well it that we don't realize it's even there.
How we get there requires clever software algorithms and, more importantly, powerful (and power-miserly) IP, especially DSPs. Processing audio and video is one thing; understanding the context of what’s being processed is another. But we’re headed in the right direction.
It’s about baby steps: Remote cameras are followed by cameras that alert you to motion, which are followed by cameras that recognize faces, which are followed by cameras that recognize the face and unlock the door because it’s your sister.
IP and IP subsystems are the path that will get us quickly and cost-effectively to the Star Trek lifestyle.
I can’t wait!
Seow Yin Lim
—Where Is the Money for IoT?
—IoT Focus: Natural User Interface Design Crucial to Success
—IoT Focus: Wrestling with the Design, Time to Market, and Cost Challenges of IoT