Wanted: transformational use cases for the Internet of Things

Posted on 05/02/2015



The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a weird way to start the year. Thousands of companies, VCs and journalists stampeding round Vegas in search of the next big thing. Or at least that’s how I imagine it.

To my knowledge, no world changing products have been launched there. Very little actual “news” makes its way out of the desert; the only thing that can survive the Nevada heat is hype.

This year I actually found some news. It’s wasn’t a headline or a product; it was a “state of the industry” style discussion about the Internet of Things (IoT) on the a16z and KPCB podcasts:

Three things stood out:

1. Internet connected or Internet enabled? Does the technology work with or because of web connectivity?

2. The IoT is already here, it’s ready. So why aren’t homes, cities and workplaces already embedded with silicon chips and bluetooth enabled? The barrier to major change is not the availability of technology, the execution or even the cost; it’s a lack of “transformational use cases”. I.e. there’s a lot we can do with the kit, but we’ve not yet found a use that’s valuable and that much better than the status quo.

3. IoT won’t remain a sector, or group of products for very long. In a couple of years it’ll merge back with the home entertainment, automotive,

So what’s needed for real change in this space? Going out on a limb here, I think there are three things that could make a difference:

A vision from the manufacturers

What is it? What is it for? And what difference will it make to me? Bundling technology together as the “internet of things” doesn’t exactly help.

Experimentation by end users.

Companies can imagine but real people will decide what works for them.

Cost savings data

People and companies don’t just want “better”. Often, they just want cheaper. Showing how much money intelligent systems can save is itself a kind of transformational use case. Mainly relevant to companies (and the odd cheapskate).

We have the sensors, we just don’t know what to do with them. But we’ll get there.

Posted in: Digital