In my last blog, we discussed what it will take to accelerate mass adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). Now, I’m going to take it a step further and introduce the importance of making IoT more relevant versus absolute — more connected versus singular and utilitarian — “things” that can truly end up changing people’s lives or increasing productivity, versus done in isolation from the rest of the connected world.
It all starts with the enabling core technologies of adding embedded computing and connectivity to “things” — then you add sensor technology, near real-time computing, an expansive network, significant cloud data storage and analytics — but that alone does not fundamentally change core industries — from agriculture to manufacturing to consumer electronics, and more.
The catalyst for a truly connected and smart world comes with “the relative existence of things.” According to a Wikipedia definition:
If the existence of a substance becomes effective only with influences of other existences, that can be called a Relative Existence.
When something exists on its own, or without support of anything else, that can be called Absolute Existence.
For example, simply adding WiFi, Bluetooth or Zigbee to a light bulb, door lock, thermostat, soil moisture sensor or piece of machinery, may provide a single utility or benefit, but its existence will be Absolute. It will not be connected to the universe of connected things or other systems, and therefore will not provide the benefit of exponential compounding value.
Why is this important? Because that device would miss out on the power of geometric progression. Visualize this for a moment–if I were to take a piece of paper and tear it in two… and then if I were to place the two halves on top of each other… and then if I were to repeat the process… I would produce a stack of paper that is now four times the thickness of the original, correct?
Then, hypothetically speaking, if I were to repeat this process… say, just fifty times… do you know how tall this stack would be? The stack would be 112 million Km or 70 million miles high! That’s three quarters of the way to the Sun. This is the power of a geometric progression or compound growth. (It is generally believed that you can’t fold a piece of paper in half more than eight times. In reality, with a paper of infinite size and with infinite energy, it can be folded an infinite number of times. The problem is that if it’s folded just 103 times, the thickness will be larger than the observable Universe: 93 billion light-years! 1
This kind of compound growth can happen only when each node on a network is interacting with, learning from and being part of a much larger network of connected nodes – each new node building on the others. This is precisely what is needed in order to spur the mass adoption of IoT. Simply connecting devices to the Internet in order to interact with an App or a single business process is not enough to produce a compounding effect — it needs the Relative Existence of Things to make the profound impact needed to be industry-, or even life-changing.
There are a handful of companies today (and more that will emerge tomorrow) that have the power to almost immediately enable and bring to life this concept of a Relative Existence for the Connectivity of Everything, both for consumers and for industry. That short list of companies includes Apple, Google, Cisco, IBM, Blackberry, as well as Amazon and Facebook. Last time I mentioned the Apple Home Kit. Apple introduced HomeKit in iOS 8, a new framework that delivers a common protocol for simple set up and communication with devices in the home, including integration with Siri. Marvell’s IoT chipsets and EZ-Connect SDK now support HomeKit and makes integration easy for device manufacturers to add the ability for their customers to securely pair and control devices throughout the home.
Since that time, Google I/O Nest officially announced a new Google Nest developer program and API that will allow other companies’ smart devices to communicate with Nest’s Protect smoke alarm and Learning Thermostat. Many high-profile third-party developers, like Whirlpool, Whirlpool, Chamberlain, Jawbone and Mercedes-Benz, have already developed some very interesting use cases with these APIs. And while Apple and Google are focusing on consumer IoT applications, Blackberry’s new Project Ion, is focusing more on enterprise and industrial applications for IoT.
Leveraging the Blackberry Mobile Device Management platform, Ion’s goal is to give businesses and industry access to new kinds of insights that can be derived when every aspect of their business is a connected, data-gathering device. It will also enable relationship building between partners, carriers and app developers. Apple’s HomeKit, Google’s Nest Labs and Blackberry’s Project Ion, are all examples of platforms that are enabling the Relative Existence for connected things.
So revisiting our previous Absolute IoT example, when these companies engage a community of developers, and give access to the APIs for that door lock, thermostat, light bulb and garage door opener . . . it opens up a whole world of options brought on by relative and contextual possibilities. The “smart devices” in your home would react to events triggered by your actions. App developers, or device manufacturers, could create “scenes” and tie them into their products. For example, a car manufacturer could utilize geo-fencing algorithms, running as an App on the car’s OS, to turn on your home air conditioner if it “sensed” that you were returning home from work or errands, perhaps at the five-mile marker. As you got closer to your street, it could turn on the porch lights followed by the garage door once you were near your driveway. Then as you walk up to your front door, grocery bags in hand, your door would unlock, sensing the presence of your smartphone.
Therefore, by making a device Relative to the Existence of Things versus Absolute, triggering the compounding effect and geometric progression, we see how the relevance and impact of the Internet of Things is only made possible through The Relative Existence of Things to deliver an exciting new IoT world.