The Renaissance of Things

As we entered 2014, analysts everywhere took to their research with the hope to predict what the biggest trends will be throughout this year. The three recurrent themes are; wearables, connected devices, and big data… which can be related to what the industry is calling “The Internet of Things”.

Some are calling this phenomenon the next industrial revolution, and in terms of economic benefits they are right, but I’m taking a different perspective in seeing it as the next renaissance.

The Renaissance, the cultural movement which spanned roughly from the 14th to the 17th century, is most widely-recognised for its artistic endeavours – such as Michelangelo’s “David”. It was a booming period; which brought about vast change in ideas and concepts.

This year, we hope to truly begin a (rapidly growing, but long-term) revolution where all “things” are connected to the infinite web to automate previously manual tasks; vastly improving efficiency, and creating cultural change in the way we build and expect to use technology.

Today it’s about lightbulbs and thermostats you can control remotely in your “Smart Home”… but the future heralds a central database – like that being pushed by the heavyweights signed up to the AllSeen Alliance – which developers can utilise to create innovative applications.

It’s alliances such as AllSeen which will drive the IoT’s potential. Without direction and cohesion between manufacturers; it will not reach its expected heights. Companies with giant ecosystems, such as that maintained by Cupertino-based Apple, will simply release proprietary devices which only work between their own products.

Whilst a central database with control for near-every device would be a candy store for developers – and therefore promote likely incredible growth – it could be an even tastier proposition for some less-than-legit hackers… or the NSA.

In fact, leading research firm Gartner is predicting there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020; generating incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in services. Whilst a study by General Electric concluded the Internet of Things over the next 20 years could add as much as $15 trillion to global GDP, which it noted is roughly “the size of today's U.S. economy.”

Here in England, we even have connected cows, go figure.

Part of this sudden surge in interest is driven by lower component costs; which may lead to “ghost” devices which have unused connectivity becoming commonplace. These devices could be activated by software if required, and will not likely be publicly available.

Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner, says: “By 2020, component costs will have come down to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature, even for processors costing less than $1. This opens up the possibility of connecting just about anything, from the very simple to the very complex, to offer remote control, monitoring and sensing.”

He continues: “The fact is, that today, many categories of connected things in 2020 don't yet exist. As product designers dream up ways to exploit the inherent connectivity that will be offered in intelligent products, we expect the variety of devices offered to explode.”

Experts foresee a world where elderly people survive once-life-threatening accidents, since doctors and emergency responders will be alerted the moment their patients fall. Fewer planes will crash, because every part on every aircraft will be electronically monitored. Wines will get better since vineyard operators will know precisely when their grapes have the perfect sugar concentrations for picking. These are just a few examples of a vast number of potential implementations…

So to sum up, why am I seeing The Internet of Things as a renaissance rather than the next industrial revolution? Because it’s art, it’s technological art where technology works seamlessly together to improve the lives of everyone globally. And that’s something truly profound and game-changing.

Do you think the high expectation of “The Renaissance of Things” is justified?

To learn more about the Internet of Things visit IoT Tech Expo Europe in London's Olympia, 2-3 December, 2015.

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