The internet of things – or IoT to the majority of us – has been a buzzword for some time now. And like AR and VR, the term is thrown around by large corporates and start-ups, all angling to get a head start on the next big thing. Until now, that’s all it’s really been – buzz. But things are about to change. Like most mainstream technology, it’s rarely a single product that makes a market ‘go’ but a combination of factors all coming into existence at the same time. IoT is no different. Here are the factors that I believe will provide IoT with what it needs to finally take off and change how we live, work and play.

 

A real reason to be

At the heart of any successful innovation must be a real genuine reason to be. IoT isn’t about connecting things to the internet and making them smart – we’ve been doing that for years. Remember smart fridges? How many people actually have a fridge that shops for them? 

 

Innovation is about the invisible potential in the things we overlook that connect us with one another, and with ourselves. IoT isn’t just about more tech – it’s about making things invisible, making annoyances go away and optimizing every-day life.

 

Once we get past the first wave of mind-boggling smart gadgets – from home appliances that sing, to underwear that will know when it needs a wash – we will start to get into the really interesting stuff. Genuine breakthrough platforms that combine AI to join up the dots and create a network effect, where the combination of products working in harmony with users will create new experiences. At the heart of IoT adoption will be people like me and you, wanting and demanding better.

 

A new network

5G technology marks the beginning of a new era for IoT. 5G is not just about faster speeds – with any new network offering comes innovation and the potential for disruption. The publication “Telecomlead” says that 5G is “up to 10 times more efficient on a cost-per-gigabyte basis compared to LTE”.

 

Such an exponentially reduced cost could mean a global democratization of data and network usage, allowing for a universally connected world. We are already seeing signs that the big telcos are gearing up, with the launch of V by Vodafone and a number of hardware manufactures shifting from mid and low-tier products to connected homes, families, pets – the list goes on. Even if IOT devices don’t necessarily require 5G to operate, a new dawn can form a new era. 

 

A new kind of power

In order to support a network of smart connected devices, we need to rethink power. The good news? It’s already happening. Companies like Drayson Technologies have mastered a wireless charging technology that can power low level devices over 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi. The wireless charging market is already beginning to disrupt the healthcare and automotive industries – in fact this sector is poised to be worth $22 Billion by 2022. It might sound like magic – but it’s exactly what we need to maximize the potential of IoT, and allow smart tech to come out of the home or office and exist on us, in us, in nature, or in remote environments – and beyond. 

 

A killer example

Finally, it will come down to someone doing something surprising and memorable. How many people could have predicted that the millions of dollars in R&D that went into the iPhone would have been showed off by the simple drinking of a humble pint of digital beer? I don’t think this time it will be a single product, or even an experience, that sets off the IoT revolution. The benefit of IoT is more likely going to be brought to life by empowering startups and small cities to do things never thought possible – to compete against the tech hubs such as San Francisco, New York, and London – by giving them the opportunity to become just as connected and powerful. We can already see this happening, with Bill Gates spending $80 Million on creating a “Smart City” in Arizona, and companies such as Cisco creating a fund to help cities around the world build smart infrastructure.

 

So whether you’re an individual who will benefit from minor life improvements in hidden ways, or a city reaping huge financial, social and logistical benefits, or even somewhere in between – a business, for example – the question of what IoT means for you remains to be seen. The future is up to all of us – all we know is, there probably won’t be a singing fridge in sight.  

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Ben Little is a co-founder of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank. Since 2007, Fearlessly Frank has helped to concept and bring to life new product ideas and develop innovative go to market strategies for Enterprise, start-up and investment-backed businesses. Recent projects include developing a new urban mobility project for Nissan, turning millions of HTC users into philanthropists and launching the category-redefining Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and disruptive insurance start-up Sherpa (both of which Fearlessly Frank co-owns alongside the founders). Ben speaks regularly on creativity and innovation and has appeared on Sky News and at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona amongst others. Prior to Fearlessly Frank, Ben served as Head of Business Development EMEA at McCann Erickson and was the Head of Special Operations at IPG-backed Boymeetsgirl.