They call it the Internet of Things. A life so connected online your phone will alert you that your toast is burning or stop it before it does.
Tech companies are at it again, racing to claim brand ownership on Internet of Things trend.
Cisco and Intel call it the Internet of Everything, GE calls it the Industrial Internet and now Microsoft is calling it The Internet of Your Things.
Regardless of how you package IoT there’s a huge buzz around the potential for data and connectivity to change the way people interact with technology. Whilst there are plenty of ideas the IT companies are yet to compile a credible business case that would impress shareholders.
Sure there are a pile of studies which estimate IoT will be worth trillions of dollars when a few billion devices are connected to each other. Microsoft in Sydney today said IoT is going to effect millions of devices and could deliver a $6.5 billion data dividend to Australia’s GDP over the next four years – if data is used efficiently.
But tech companies have not convincingly shown actually know what that looks like just yet – or how they fit into it.
In March networking company Cisco was making some big, bold statements about the buzz term, claiming: “The internet of everything is everything”.
Today Microsoft attempted its re-branding, tagging IoT as “The Internet of Your Things” which scales back on Cisco’s strategy and concentrates on connecting the devices you already have to produce useful data and efficiencies.
Microsoft’s general manager of marketing Barb Edson said Microsoft is chasing small changes as it pivots towards this trend.
“After all, it’s not the Internet of Everything – it’s really the Internet of Your Things, and even the smallest change has the potential to deliver maximum impact,” she said.
But Edson conceded the hype around IoT is out of control.
“So many people are talking about IoT,” she said. “It’s really just a network”.
“A simple concept that’s blown up,” Edson said.
“IoT is really a huge buzz word.”
Edson said with the possibility of 212 billion devices being connected globally by 2020 the potential is big – but Microsoft isn’t focussing on that big picture because it’s confusing both enterprises and consumers.
“They’re excited [about IoT] but they don’t know quite what to do about it,” she said.
However, Microsoft’s strategy shows signs of a big company that is struggling to keep up with the agility its world demands. And they’re not alone. None of these companies appear to have agreed on the concept just yet – it’s all strategy, vision, marketing and hot air.
Some may also be fearful of going too big for fear of failure or calling the trend wrong.
Edson said Microsoft’s strategy is more of a “brownfields” one.
“It’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution,” Edson said.
“We really don’t think it’s a rip and replace it’s about using the infrastructure you already have connecting the devices that are already in place.”
Part of this strategy is Microsoft’s realisation that “IoT is not only a Window’s world. IoT is a cross platform world,” Edson said.
“We have to support all of the different platforms,” she said.
To do this the company is reviving an old strategy which awkwardly perished a few years back. It’s making embedded Windows available for free to small footprint devices. Microsoft tried a version of this when it released its smart watches called SPOT or Smart Personal Object Technology almost a decade ago.
But Edson said the difference now is “it isn’t going to be one vendor that’s going to be able to provide everything across organisations”.
“It’s a cross platform play and it’s also an ecosystem play.”
But what exactly that play is and how it works is yet to be seen.