First of all, is it too much to ask if we could go back to three letter acronyms or whatever these things are called, that are all CAPS rather than things like IoT? You know what I mean and it’s a slippery slope. First we had SaaS and who knows how many other things of the general form XxX and my pinky is having whiplash. Sheesh!
Ok, seriously let’s talk about the IoT or the Internet of Things. The reality is that we are wiring up just about anything that moves with one kind of sensor or another and sticking it on the Internet so that it can surreptitiously upload data to a mother ship whose job it is to crunch all that data. Good, I get it.
Sometime around 2008 when you were paying attention to the financial Armageddon the number of devices on the Internet quietly surpassed the number of humanoids on the planet and the number simply keeps growing. But here’s the thing that might lead to greater understanding. What’s happening is not some gratuitous exercise in demonstrating personal smarts — look at me now my freezer is on line! No, no, no.
What we are really seeing is the early stage rollout of two (count ‘em) new things we’ll call Internets because that’s what we do when some linguistic trick works — quick what does the suffix –gate mean? I rest my case. If you think of the original Internet as the Communications Internet, then the new Internets will actually be synergistic networks of logistics and energy, or so says Jeremy Rifkin in his new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society — The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.
Now, everybody since Karl Marx has been predicting the decline of capitalism but here it still is. Since I am not an economist I will let you read the book and make your own determination about a 250 year-old economic theory based in pin factories and rents. Like I said, when something works we tend to stay with it.
But where Rifkin talks about the IoT, I think there’s a lot to pay attention to and it will help in making sense of the seemingly bizarre array of new devices that all have the common feature of sending data across the Internet but for vastly different purposes.
A device like Google Glass can be seen as a content consumption device (with some capture too) and so it fits nicely into the Communications Internet. But what about the home thermostat that you can access from your phone to crank the AC before you get home? That device might use the communications grid but it is more properly a part of the Energy Internet and this analogy can be carried through to devices that control how and when your solar panels will sell power into the grid for example.
Finally, the Logistics Internet would include the famous sensors on jet engines that report on operating metrics or packages that let you know where they are and when they’ll be where they are going. The combination of these three capabilities is forging a new economy according to Rifkin, one that can significantly reduce the costs of production to ridiculously low levels, hence the title.
As you can see from the examples I provided, we are already well on our way to evolving the Energy and Logistics Internets. The original Communications Internet took about 20 years to reach full bloom but you know how these things go. With the head start the other two ‘Nets have, it won’t take another 20 years to fully deploy them.
That’s why Salesforce’s announcement of Salesforce Wear is so important. ‘Wear is an app development environment for all of the different devices of the Internet trio we seem to be evolving. As usual, Salesforce is deploying technology early burnishing its Blue Ocean credentials but in the process, there’s a lot that’s being left unsaid, like why do we need apps for all these devices? The simple answer is that the apps will populate not just the IoT but the Logistics, Energy, and Communication Internets.
Wear is a good term to get started with since wearable computing is the tip of the spear of the IoT; it’s the most obvious part because, let’s face it, none of us has a jet engine hanging around the house that needs sensing. At the same time though, we need a bigger discussion about the evolving Internets otherwise, business may not grasp the importance of either ‘Wear or the IoT, not to mention the trio of Internets.
In my mind, the social revolution is just about over. The social infrastructure is built out (though the business model needs work as advertising revenues continue to drop) and further refinements will need to wait for the other two Internets to catch up. Some people are offering the customer experience or customer engagement as the logical successors. But each of these ideas lacks the fundamental understanding of the importance of devices. Increasingly the consumer will be the devices I own and my experience will be predicated on how well you engage my devices. In real time. Across all three Internets.
(Cross-posted @ Beagle Research, LLC)