Time to make the IoT ‘for the rest of us’
By Benjamin Cher July 7, 2016
- Industry needs to look into interoperability and consumer-friendliness
- It’s not the Internet of ‘Things,’ it is the Internet of ‘You’
THE Internet of Things (IoT) is all the rage now, from refrigerators that can automatically order a pint of milk when you run low, to sensors that let your insurance company know how safe a driver you are.
Yet in its quest to bring the IoT into every home, the industry might be missing the point about consumers, according to Jim Hunter, chief scientist and technology evangelist at Greenwave Systems.
“The problem we have … is that technologists speak in a certain way – they think in terms of code and programs” which are too complicated for consumers, he says, speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore recently.
“What you have to do is change the conversation – instead of thinking of it as a thing or device you take home, think about it as an employee in your life; think about it as something you talk to naturally as you would to an employee.
“Then it becomes an interesting conversation,” he adds.
Hunter describes it as a horizontal approach rather than a vertical one.
“The challenge is that people often want to build different technologies that essentially become apps, which is the same model we had before,” he says.
“It should not be about the technology at all, it should be about nouns and verbs that we use to communicate – by using tags, keywords we put on things, we can create groups and interactions,” he adds.
This creates context and reduces the need to change configurations or systems every time you replace an individual appliance or sensor, according to Hunter.
“You can program it and say turn on the kitchen – the kitchen is not a room but a tag,” he says.
“It’s cool because I can build a rule, and that rule sits and runs and does what I need it to do, even if I buy something new for the kitchen.
“If I buy something new for the kitchen, all I have to do is give it the tag ‘kitchen’ or whatever it is, so it is very much tied to people,” he adds.
Understanding consumers, natural language
Hunter (pic) believes that there are three key things the industry needs to understand.
“The first is that we’re all in this together – as long as it has the moniker or identification as the IoT, failures affect all of us,” he says.
“The thing you have to understand is you’re selling a product to consumer, you have to think the way consumers think,” he adds.
The second key issue is interoperability – there needs to be industry standards that would allow more devices or ‘things’ to talk to each other.
“The third thing is, you have to understand that your app is not the centre of their [consumers’] world – they have apps that are already the centre of their world, so you need to adjust the interactions to the paradigms they are used to.
“Make it so they can use social media, speech, gesture, etc. – the interactions should reduce the friction, not increase it,” he adds.
While voice recognition has advanced by leaps and bounds, natural language processing (NLP), or how humans communicate with computers via human languages, is still far from perfect.
Hunter proposes that if the industry were to treat NLP as a language itself, interactions can open up.
“If you treat it differently, then NLP becomes a language, then anything that lives within that language can be interacted with in the same way,” he says.
Bringing in the business
As the IoT penetrates deeper into business functions, the challenge is to not just reapply the same models.
“We have a habit as human beings to repeat what we do and reapply the definition somewhere else,” says Hunter.
“The smart home is trying to find its roots and is latching on to the IoT, but the IoT is different,” he says.
What has happened since the PC revolution is that technology has continued to shrink, leading to mobile which led to apps for people to engage with and do things.
“Each of these specialised applications does fewer things in less time – the IoT is the natural evolution of compute, every one of these devices is getting smaller and more distributed and more efficient,” he says.
This means there are “trillions of opportunities” that beckon with the IoT, Hunter declared.
Ultimately, the IoT has to revolve around the user: “It is not really about connected homes, it is about the ‘connected you’ – it’s not the Internet of Things, it is the Internet of You.
“That’s what it has always been – the value of the computer, the value of mobile, and the value of the IoT is all about you,” he adds.
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