IoT: I Don’t Care How Big It Is!

I’m reading a McKinsey report from May 2013 that talks about 12 disruptive technologies, including cloud computing and the Internet of Things (Iot). I’ll focus on the IoT here.

The report estimates the (Iot) Internet to be worth between $2.7 and $6.2 trillion by the year 2025.(The world’s combined GDP is about $72 trillion today.) When it comes to the IoT, the report says there could be 50 billion new devices connected to the Internet by 2025, or maybe a trillion. Give or take.

With all due respect, these numbers are nonsense, perhaps, and irrelvant, doubtlessly. It does no one any good to estimate things within a few trillion dollars or a factor of 20X.

We also have no idea what the world will look like politically more than a decade from now. Will the year 2025 harken the beginning of Hillary Clinton’s third term as President of the United States? Or perhaps the Cruz/Paul administration’s first? Will China be the world’s economic collosus, and/or perhaps the world’s largest democracy?

Over the past two decades, no one expected the fall of the Soviet Union or the Arab Spring; the dot-com meltdown came as a catastropic shock to many (and removed $7 trillion in wealth), and our favorite uncle Alan Greenspan now admits he had no idea that the Great Recession was looming. We humans are terrible at predicting the future.

But we live with the certainty that technology evolves and has great potential to improve the fate of nations and people. Technology is apolitical, agnostic, and indefatigable in the face of geo-political pettiness and conflict. We all know this. “Learning” that the cloud or IoT might add a trillion here and there, or several trillion, adds no value to any discussion.

McKinsey did its due diligence in rounding up a passel of big names (eg, Eric Schmidt, And it gives the usual, clichéd nod to Schumpeter’s idea of creative destruction in touting the 12 disruptions.

Let’s Get Specific
But those of us working in the industry need to be a little more specific. The IoT encompasses an enormous range of devices, uses, and industries.

I first led discussions of it at an event in Beijing in 2011. McKinsey, to its credit, issued a nice report sans numbers in 2010. One company tweeted me yesterday that they’ve been doing IoT stuff since 2007.

OK, got it. The IoT is not a brand-new idea. But it is now gaining big traction. It is already throwing datacenter developers into a tizzy as they grapple with delivering a magnitude more processing in a short time. Industrial design is moving to the fore, not just the province of Apple anymore. Google just bought a company for $3.2 billion, a harbinger of an IoT spring.

The IoT generates Big Data, which in turn is best handled by virtualized resources and Cloud Computing, which in turn are begetting the Software-Defined Networks (SDN) and Software-Defined Datacenter (SDDC). Emerging DevOps culture also fits in here, as a function of the speed required to bring ideas to fruition.

For my part, I spend a lot of my time working within a start-up that aims to deliver personal websites, photos, and video to as many people as possible, worldwide, some day. We virtualize, we use the cloud, and we will be encountering bigger datasets as we encounter mobile devices on our grid, and the telemetry that goes with them.

It’s a big development challenge, and one in which we operate in blissful ignorance of whether we’re operating within a $1.7 or $6.2 trillion opportunity.

In summary, as a writer and as Conference Chair of @thingsexpo, I have a simple question: what are you doing? Please let me know!

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