We are entering a new phase in the Internet of Things. It is a promise for years, but it seems that we are heading to a tipping point. And Apple’s new iOS5 could be a accelerator. Tomorrow the new version of the mobile operation system for the iPhone will be introduced, and one of the most interesting speculations on the news is the integration of Twitter deeply in the OS, together with the introduction of iCloud. The real difference of a Twitter integration comes not with the sharing your pictures directly from the tools, but will be the way Twitter will evolve in a notification platform for smart objects via your phone. How does this could work?
First of all. The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is all about smart objects. Just like a lot of other technological developments, the difference is not made by the technology itself, but by what it accomplishes. And for the IoT is that the fact that object will be smart and social. Using the knowledge available in the cloud and the context awareness of the object makes it a smarter object. All the examples, how cheesy there are sometimes, are on smartness. See for instance the examples in this article of BBC from last week.
Second. Smart objects will operate in their own ecosystems. Think of your car that will be collecting different data from stream it needs to be smarter. Or your smart scale creates its own ecosystem with other fitness related products like a Fitbit. Those ecosystems are valuable on its own, and the smart objects need a ecosystem to be valuable. Building these kind of ecosystems are vital for the success of a smart object. The ecosystems are not necessarily interconnected. To obtain differentiation, the ecosystems will be even more closed than expected.
Thirdly. We are in a transformation, and we will for a long time. Some things are smart, some are not. It is like the development of a car, or the television; it will take years for the whole system to change. Therefore isolated value per object-ecosystem combination is key for success. But to make these valuable it is important to have a system to connect the objects to ourselves. We need a hub to receive all the sensors.
The phone is a strong possible candidate for this hub function. It is already happening with things like Google Goggles where real objects are connected, or shotcodes, or even augmented reality. But all still only as a sensor, sometimes as part of the object ecosystem. What is missing is a connection between the ecosystems. And there are two existing platforms with great potential. Facebook of course, an extension of the like-system to real objects can be expected. But the like-systems is focused on persons, connected to my own profile. That is its power, but also a barrier for inter-object-communications. On the other hand we have Twitter. By being so basic it has more potentials. We see it already happening with bots that live on themselves on Twitter.
So, Apple teaming up with Twitter on the integration of the platform in the OS, could be an indication that there is a strategy to play a defining role in the object-Internet. Object ‘sensored’ with the phone can interact with other objects via an open platform, and services can be built on the platform. Twitter may get a new role next to the peoples communication platform. The API will be more important for object services. Maybe Apple can help Twitter with the deep pockets to add the necessary data storage from their new cloud center.
As always others will react and follow quickly. Facebook maybe first by letting objects have profiles. And maybe it is a good idea for Google to acquire Pachube? But Apple can set standards for a usable implementation to boost this. I’m very curious if we will see this development in the announcement of tomorrow. Directly or between the lines.