Big Earl’s Debut
Actually, his name should be spelled, “URL” and pronounced “Earl.” Clever, isn’t it? Big Url made his debut with a TV ad in 2000. It was a hit. An idea whose time had come. Never mind that it has taken 17 years to make it realistic, the idea has always been reasonable to TV viewers.
A repairman shows up at an up-scale home. “I’m here to do maintenance on the fridge.” Mrs. Homemaker, with wide eyes, is sure he has the wrong house. “Honey, did you call for a refrigerator repairman?” She turns to the repairman and says, “There’s nothing wrong with our refrigerator.” To which the repairman poignantly replies, “Not yet.” Big smile. Big Url had made the call for maintenance but hadn’t mentioned it to the chief residents.
IoT Makes its Debut
Seventeen years ago we had our introduction to the idea of IoT – the Internet of Things. Emphasis on “things.” I0T is the ability to collect data from things.
Kevin Ashton, who coined the term IoT, said, “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
The problem has always been the people who control and use things. They “…have limited time, attention and accuracy – all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world.”
IoT the Problem Solver
The idea of IoT was to connect the things we use to the internet so that they could report on their own what their status of functional actually was. Not just appliances in homes. But shipping and receiving product. Predicting electricity usage to avoid spikes and brownouts. Adjusting traffic light timing to keep the streets from being clogged at the wrong times. Even something as delicate as the irrigation of potatoes and the best time for harvest.
McKinsey now values the IoT market at $11.1 trillion on an annual basis by 2025, with 70% of that coming from businesses and 30% from consumers. Without projecting the GDP for 2025, it’s easy to see this would be a large segment simply by realizing it equals the total GDP from 2002.
Without trying to take pages to describe how the IoT works – as though I actually could – a rudimentary understanding of the elements will help. Each of the things must have a sensor to collect the data. There must be a network to pass that data along. There must be central server banks where the data is stored. There must be software to make sense of the data.
The software is the real key. A mass of data without the intelligence to evaluate and know what the data means is of no use to anyone. So software not only aggregates the data meaningfully, but also decides what data is useful to collect.
The big money behind this Big Url project speaks to the benefit to humanity of having some help in monitoring matters of the things in our lives. While there’s no effort to live simpler lives, there is considerable effort to make it simpler to manage complex lives. We believe the benefit will be worth the money expended to make it all happen. Time alone will tell.