The Internet of Consumer Things Is Here

It is clear that the Internet of Things is starting to make quite a splash in the enterprise space. That’s where better platforms for deploying and managing M2M systems (from likes of Axeda, Sierra Wireless, and ThingWorx), together with involvement from relevant software houses (take e.g. IBM, Salesforce, and Splunk), are paving the way for a whole new range of business cases to connect and analyse machines and equipment. It's about extending the power of analytics to assets that used to be opaque, data-wise. That was one of the key takeaways from the M2M Innovation World Congress I attended and spoke at in late September.

Yet there’s much more to the IoT than the enterprise and this “M2M 2.0” angle, as a growing share of the physical domain is at the same time also being unlocked to digital services in the consumer-facing world. There are Quantified Self plays like Nike FuelBand and home-automation plays like Nest, and several other products based on capturing data and controlling or monitoring physical products in a more advanced manner.

But do look even closer, for the consumer-facing IoT won’t be limited only to utility. We’re bound to see products that are connected because they simply deliver delight and pleasure to their owners. Good Night Lamp is a great early example of this proposition. I’m finding the idea behind this “social lamp network” particularly interesting, because it represents a product experience that has never really existed before: a connected product whose value is in aesthetics and emotion.

Good Night Lamp highlights the role of certain enablers that can be expected to drive other similar IoT activities in future: Kickstarter’s crowd-funding for financing the production; Arduino’s open-source electronics for bridging the physical with the digital; and Xively’s cloud platform for developing and managing the application. Add 3D printing to that mix, and you begin to have a very potent mix of ingredients to enable more start-ups to get involved in the IoT. Expect the maker movement to make more commercial moves.

There is no doubt that the industrial side of the IoT will transform and disrupt organisations across the world in the coming years, but at the same it’s important to bear in mind that connected physical products will have a profound impact also on the consumer markets. And there it would, in turn, be a mistake to presume that this impact will be exclusively about Quantified Self, data collection, and utility-driven use cases. There will be countless products that will be connected simply because they fascinate and entertain people in novel, creative ways.