This week we were treated to an article declaring that consumers are not ready for the Internet of Things. Apparently this is due to the fact that the hardware is more expensive than their non-connected brethren. And yes, when you head down to Home Depot and see a $50 thermostat, that $250 Nest Learning Thermostat can seem pretty damn pricey.
Then again, we are an industry that has always charged into new markets with cool, innovative, and yes, expensive hardware. Didn’t stop laptops, big screen TVs or yeah, that phone in your pocket. Do you still roll up your windows in your car? Manually unlock your car? At some point convenience and utility meet price in the happy middle. The problem I have with the blunt rubric of price is it does not take into account convenience, value, or most importantly the power of identity when buying consumer technology products.
Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t been paying attention. People are connecting with products and services these days not just for what they do, but for what they say about them. Technology is becoming as much about personal identity as it is about hardware and silicon. If you still don’t believe me, then ask yourself why every time you walk down the street do you see someone wearing Beats by Dre headphones? Do you really think all those people did a deep audio review, compared prices, and then came to the best product for price and performance?
They did it because of identity. Because those headphones with the “B” on the side project an image of you to the world around you. Maybe it’s who you want the world to know, or maybe it’s the image you would rather the world see. But make no doubt, that piece of “technology” is actually “identity.” And you ain’t seen nothing yet.
What the emerging world of connected devices is really about is identity. In fact, what ties everything going forward will not be hardware, but the softest software out there: you. It’s great that we are connecting all these devices, and that your car will be able to tell your house to tell your Roomba to clean the bloody house because you are on the way home. But all this fabulous hardware will be centered on you, your data, and your identity.
In a way, we are becoming the root node of our technology world. All this technology and data will be routed and directed around us. Let’s look at this in a different way. A second ago we mentioned your car talking to your home. That’s the standard way to look at the connected world. But let’s look at where the magic is really going to happen.
Take Aumeo for example. This company has a new way to tune music so it sounds best for everyone, regardless of who they are. In a way, they create a digital musical “you.” The power in that comes when you connect that to the cloud and IoT. Imagine waking up in the morning and firing up your Sonos. Your kids were using it last night playing that Bieber boy, but now the hardware knows it’s you, so it reaches into the cloud to find “you” and reconfigure the sound.
Not interesting yet? Imagine you get into your car, which senses you in the seat, also changing the car stereo. You get into the office and your headphones adapt as well. At the end of the day, the promise of the connected world is really about the promise of the connected you, the digital you. It becomes your avatar, your shadow, and the two of you will traverse this world together.
It’s not about hardware. It’s never been about just hardware. It is however about data. And here is the second complaint about the world of IoT: security. This does actually have more teeth than the price argument, but again, it’s coming from an antiquated view that the connected world will leave behind in the dust.
The reality is in order to truly power the world of the connected you, the issue at hand is not building walls around you and your data. It’s about unleashing that data so the digital you can be free to connect to everything around you. Which means this isn’t a story ultimately about security as much as it’s a story about authentication.
At the end of the day, the world of the connected you is about the ultimate abstraction of identity, freed from physical constraints. It’s your shadow in the cloud, the root node of the world of devices, software, and apps that will change the world of technology irrevocably. If Beats was the starting gun for the infusion of identity into technology, then IoT represent the next expression of that. And just like Beats, it will have absolutely nothing to do with price.