Confusion Reigns over the IoT


The IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, is becoming so ordinary to those of us who work with manufacturing that we can easily overlook the fact that many people are confused and scared by the IoT.

Maybe this is because most Americans can only envision the Internet of Things in the context of their homes.

“The fact that the smart home realm gets the lion’s share of attention and hype could partly explain skepticism towards the IoT at large,” writes Brian Buntz of the Internet of Things Institute. He uses the example of a friend who said he couldn’t see why his washing machine needed to connect and communicate with anyone. 

His friend might disagree if he has ever run out of laundry detergent. A washing machine that will automatically communicate with Amazon (maybe using the Tide Dash button) and order its own detergent when you get low would be a big help.

Smart homes don’t currently do much with washing machines, but the things they can do are pretty cool:

  • Heat your pool just in time for your swim.
  • Keep your thermostat where you need it for different times and circumstances.
  • Lock your front door if you forget to do it before you leave the house.
  • Play music only in the room you’re in and change that as you move through the house.

The problem is that most of the current smart home functionality is sort of like a remote control: home owners can talk to an electronic device in the house with their smart phones.

Scornful articles about the IoT minimize the benefits and get very dramatic about how hackers could maliciously change your temperature settings.

In a smart factory, a product can tell the packaging machine which product it is and what stage it’s at so the packaging machine will know what actions to take at that moment for that product. A security badge can tell a machine what language its owner speaks so the machine will provide information in the right language. Two machines can talk to each other so that their actions with a product are coordinated.

At the very minimum, these capabilities cut down on programming, configuration, and set up time in ways that seem magical.

That’s way cooler than anything you can do with a remote control.

Imagine a home where your refrigerator gets a message from your Fitbit saying that you’ve taken another thousand steps, dispenses a glass of cool water, and chimes pleasantly to remind you to stay hydrated by dropping by the kitchen at your convenience to pick up the water.

Or a home where the shower senses which family member is using it and adjusts the temperature automatically, keeping kids safe from too-hot water while giving you and your spouse your perfect preferred showering experience. It could dispense the preferred shampoo at the right height, too.

Examples like these could help the general public get the value of the IoT — and the IIoT. That could create a greater openness and less fear of the idea. That, in turn, could help overcome the barriers at the administrative level that sometimes delay progress in the IIoT.


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