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Too much of a useless thing

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 1:32pm
David Mantey, Editor-in-Chief

I realize that my growing interest, and ongoing coverage, of the Internet of Things (IoT) is only exacerbating the massive attention on one of the greatest technological known unknowns, but the confusion and excitement surrounding the impending market shift provides a regular topic of conversation while on the road, as everyone in the industry has an opinion. 

"The success of the Internet of Things is really going to come down to price point and convenience," says Roger Burns, North American sales and marketing manager of Fox Electronics. "Why do I need a connected refrigerator?" After speaking with him at EDS 2014 in Las Vegas, it became clear that it all boils down to ease of use and flexibility for Burns, who did add that he monitors and controls both his home security and stereo systems with IoT smartphone functionality.

To further put it in perspective, Fox Electronics President Ed Fox adds, "I have 150 apps on my phone, and I use five of them." According to Fox, the Internet of Everything (IoE) may mean that every device includes some form of connectivity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is going to use it.

At least a useless application takes up little more than a bit of memory on your device. We already struggle with massive amounts of electronic waste each year, I can only imagine how the landscape will worsen as we try to cram unnecessary connectivity into every material possession.

According to a May 2013 EPA study, the United States generated 3.3 million tons of e-waste in 2010 — and only 19.6 percent of it was recycled (recycling did improve dramatically in 2011, increasing to 24.9 percent). According to the Cisco whitepaper "The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet is Changing Everything," there were "only" 12.5 billion devices connected to the internet.

Now, I believe that e-waste recycling programs will continue to improve, but up to 50 billion IoT products are expected to be on the market by 2025 and I just don’t believe that they will all be necessary (I don’t believe that most of them will be necessary). I’ll sooner stick with Ed Fox’s 5-to-150 ratio, making only 1.67 billion of those products in 2025 worth our time and money.

But who knows? I efforted a brief stint as a gadget freak and it fizzled shortly after the smartphone purchase. My iPad is still in the box (perhaps some sort of contest is in order). I am by no means a minimalist, but I do prefer quality over quantity and I find the IoT projections both exciting and harrowing. 

What are your predictions for the Internet of Things? More importantly, what is your ratio of useful to useless applications on your devices?

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