The Internet of Things may not exist (yet)

“Have you seen
the IoT?”

The Internet of Things is supposedly the hottest growth sector in technology since the social media craze. So if you visit one of the few conferences dedicated to the IoT, what would you expect to see?

I’d expect something like Java One back in the late ’90s. Tons of people. Tons of vendors. Rock concert atmosphere. Lots of sensible pitches about business value in just every imaginable corner of the tech and business universe.

I just returned from a brief visit of the Things Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. What I found was the opposite:

The only even remotely interesting pitch I saw was a slide on “Connected Vineyards”. But it was just one slide in a long slide deck on auto-pilot on somebody’s booth. The rest of the vendors — needless to say there weren’t many — offered data center hardware, consulting services, rented cloud servers, some development and analytics tools, and stuff like that. All stuff that they already sold five years ago, just now with “for the IoT” glued to the collateral.

No booth that I saw screamed “and this is how the IoT will make you rich / make you famous / get you to leapfrog the competition / get you the partner of your dreams” etc. etc. In fact, nobody even seemed to try. I’m sure if those vendors had a good pitch, they’d use it.

Personally, I think this is actually good news. To me it means that the world cannot simply be blanketed with a handful of IoT products forced down the throat of the customer by a handful of mega corps. Maybe these category killer products will exist in the future, and we still aren’t there yet. That’s possible.

But it’s also possible that the IoT is more like home decorating where there are probably hundreds of thousands of products to choose from, allowing all of us to have unique homes, rather than a billion-units-a-year smart phone market split between essentially just two products: iPhone and Android. If so, that would make it really hard for the tech mega-corp players to play, because they simply don’t know how to come up with and deliver lots and lots of different kinds of products.

My bet, of course, is on the makers, and the products that evolve from their projects. Every maker solves a very specific problem, and I bet I’d get more of the IoT I need from makers than from megacorps. So: conference:0 — makers: 1.

P.S. Hi makers, need an OS for your IoT projects?