What are the key drivers of the IoT movement? Why now?

As O’Reilly Solid 2014 grows ever closer, Tim O’Reilly founder of O’Reilly Media took to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything Q & A session to drum up discussions around issues and ideas that may be of prominence in attendee’s minds come mid May. After reviewing these exchanges, we thought – what a perfect opportunity to look at some of the key topics and catalyse the conversations surrounding those topics, in the build up to the event!

A particular question we were keen to explore further was raised by juliannebrands: “What are the key drivers of the IoT movement?… Why now?…”

Bearing in mind that Reddit AMA’s typically aren’t the most in depth discussions, Tim responded by briefly highlighting the aligned conditions that have enabled a brewing of “the perfect storm”. He detailed the sleeping giant that is the mobile phone; the increased interest and momentum gaining in the maker community; and developments of a big data infrastructure, as leading to these prosperous conditions.

But… how can these three aligned conditions alone enable a surge in the uptake of IoT enabled hardware/devices/products?

Tim raised an interesting theory, as proposed by George Soros, to define this growth in the IoT domain. This theory is known as the “reflexive truth” and purports that things become true only to the extent that people are willing to believe in them. Therefore, as we witness more and more successes in the IoT space, people start realising and believing in the potential it has, thus investing more resources into its development. Once this momentum has reached a critical point, the industry becomes a perpetual being, driven forward by “self reinforcing waves”. As companies such as Nest, Fitbit, and of course EVRYTHNG 😉 establish the market, they inadvertently pave the way for the entire industry, enabling others to invest in growing their IoT capabilities too.

However, there are obviously barriers to this movement being successful.

As Tim acknowledged, the sleeping giant is the mobile device: purchase numbers are rising and connectivity is disseminating throughout society, yet having connection capability and getting consumers and organisations to engage, are two separate issues. Connectivity may have been established, with opportunities in abundance, but how can we take advantage of them?

mobile consumer

Typical usage patterns of mobile devices suggest people’s relationships with them are based on the value derived from their interactions – methods of engagement that are inconvenient and require actions outside typical consumer parameters often fail. Therefore, for the IoT to become mainstream it is essential to provide real value to the consumer that far outweighs the inconvenience of their participation: seamlessly infiltrating the existing mobile/consumer relationship.

The challenge now faced, as we scale up the number of connected things in our world, is ensuring the use-cases of the IoT provide value above and beyond the effort required to engage.