First Click: 5 billion connected 'things' still lack meaningful connections

November 24th, 2015

By this time next year, Gartner expects there to be 6.4 billion connected things in use, or almost one device for every human being living through the Internet of Things hype cycle. That number represents 30 percent growth from 2015, and a doubling of so-called “smart” things in use since 2013. Great, right?

Not really.

The promise of IoT isn't a bunch of discrete devices connected to the internet. That’s only the first step. The real benefit of IoT comes from billions of connected smart devices and sensors working together in a system of systems to make our lives better.

Yesterday, I met with a Dutch company called Triggi whose ambition is to make all those connected things talk to each other in meaningful ways when its web service launches in January. Think IFTTT but with real-time linkages between services and devices relevant to each user; think IFTTT for non-nerds, but with the ability to do very nerdy things like creating deep, conditional relationships between smart devices, city infrastructures, and web services.

The live demo I saw sent a Twitter alert to an iPhone immediately after a Tesla disconnected from a nearby public EV charger, notifying the user that it was available to charge his own electric car. Triggi also supports more trivial relationships like changing your Hue lights to match your favorite Premier League team’s colors immediately after they score a goal.

The smart homes of science fiction are already a little bit closer thanks to the proliferation of devices compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, Google’s Works with Nest, and the discombobulated ecosystems built around traditional protocols like Z-Wave, Insteon, and Zigbee. In lieu of a common communications standard, go-between services like Triggi and IFTTT might be our best hope for basic interoperability. And when our smartphones and wearables can finally talk to our homes which in turn communicate with the energy grid, weather stations, roads, traffic signals, and cars, buses, bikes, and taxis, then we’ll be living in the smart cities of the future.

Then we’ll know that the promise of IoT has arrived.

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