Lots of articles have argued that the first ever internet of things (IoT) device was a soda machine at Carnegie Mellon that was connected to the early internet in the 1980s. The machine was famously automated to let users on the local network see how recently the machine had been filled (and thus how cold the soda was). It’s a great story—but one device does not an internet make. In other words, what we in the modern era understand as the IoT isn’t really about individual devices; it’s about a tremendous volume of different devices all working together in tandem.
It’s become a fairly well established stereotype that people in many parts of the world can’t or won’t look up from their smartphones. Back in the day, the only reason to look at or think about your telephone was because it was ringing or because you intended to make a call fairly imminently. As a consequence, if a signaling error was preventing your home phone from completing calls as intended, you might not even notice for a few days. Nowadays, on the other hand, if your LTE service is interrupted for two or three minutes you’ll probably notice immediately—and you’ll be none too happy about it.
As recently as a few years ago, the idea of a smart home—in which all of your appliances and other sensors around your home are networked together digitally—still seemed more like science fiction than a fact of life. And yet, today you can walk into many new homes and use your smartphone to control the temperature and the lighting, you can preheat the oven remotely, and you can get alerts to your mobile device if your smoke detector or burglar alarm goes off. It’s the type of home that technologists have dreamed of for decades.
According to a recent GSMA study, the IoT market will be worth $1.1 trillion and include about 25 billion IoT connections by 2025. The majority of those connections will be in the industrial and vertical industry segments (13.8 billion connections) and the smart home market (11.4 billion).
Smart cities. Augmented reality. Net neutrality. The Internet of Things. These are just some of the buzzwords in telecommunications right now. They all indicate a technology-driven shift in the industry, one that has fundamentally changed the successful telecom business model. As telecom companies seek to cut costs and keep customers, they must also take advantage of emerging technologies to power innovation.