How to Navigate The Internet of Things

How to Navigate The Internet of Things

You can hardly find a discussion of CES this year that doesn’t include the Internet of Things. Everyone’s hyping smart systems that detect your smart watch and instantly unlock doors and adjust the thermostat to welcome you home. It all sounds cool. And it is.

But an issue lurks behind the excitement: the market right now is jumbled, crowded, and confusing. Rarely has a disruptive technology come with so many different vendors and options. In addition to hundreds of standalone products, we have dozens of platforms and ecosystems to help us control them. No one should be surprised that Apple and Google are offering competing versions of the connected home. But how about Comcast? Or security companies like ADT? And if you don’t want to go with a proprietary solution, you can always choose an open source one like ZigBee or Arduino. They have full suites of products too.

Unfortunately, the many vendors in the space probably won’t agree on a single platform soon. So how do you choose which ones to buy, or even build? At POSSIBLE Mobile we’ve helped our clients create several solutions in this area and have developed guidelines and best practices for them. For us, a number of things stand out when making or buying a product in the Internet of Things.                                    

1.  Look for systems that integrate. Right now, you can find standalone products and sensors that do just about anything. But no one wants 30 different apps to control 30 different things. Smarter manufacturers like Nest are making their products work with one another. Its thermostat, for example, can talk to its smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm. The more a system can do that, the better its chances will be. 

2.  Pay attention to the quality of individual products. With integration, you can also go too far. Plenty of vendors are now offering all-in-one packages that allow you to control many products from a single app. The problem is that these solution are often limited in the number of options they have, and their individual components aren’t always the best around. You don’t want to give up your Sonos because a service offers something that plays music, but not as well.

3.  Choose systems that learn. The less you have to do to set up a solution, the better it will be. Look for products that adapt to your preferences over time, not ones that require you to state them up front.

4.  In most cases, software rules. This is obvious, but you want to bet on products that have a good user experience. It’s easy to make a smart ceiling fan. It’s hard to make one that’s fun to use.

5.  Don’t forget privacy. All of these products track and record personal information—but none are hack-proof. You want to make sure that any data they collect lies in your comfort zone. You should be especially careful about anything that tracks health information or reveals when you are not at home.

Above all, don’t get overwhelmed. For all of the dramatic headlines and flashy jargon, most of these products do practical, everyday things. We may talk about seamless integration between wearable technology and home automation, but that could just refer to a system that cranks up the Coltrane when you pull into the driveway. If you focus on the tasks the products perform, their advantages and disadvantages will be much clearer.

The good news is that Internet of Things is here, and it’s going to stay. Of course, like all disruptive technologies, it will have some growing pains before the market shakes itself out. But we already have some very cool products now and almost certainly will have life-changing ones soon. Stay tuned.

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