Could it be possible that IoT is just another passing fad?
The reality is that the growth of IoT is accelerating. Cars and machines will soon surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices, according to Ericsson. What is enabling this growth?
Moore's law is driving down hardware prices to the point where it costs pennies to embed sensors and processing into everyday devices, big and small, once volumes reach a sufficient scale.
I believe that the network effects of IoT will eclipse the transformations we are seeing in today's era of smartphones and social networks.
By counting the number of possible connections between connected devices, Metcalf's law predicts that the value of a network increases by the square of the total number of connected devices.
Reed's law goes even further, arguing that the value of a network grows exponentially if you count not just the number of possible connections, but also include the possible groups which can be formed amongst members of the network. The thing about exponential growth is that it can surprise you with overwhelming effects (e.g. a pond with lilies growing exponentially will look normal for a long time, half covered one day, and completely covered the next.)
Reed's law makes sense if you consider how people can belong to lots of groups at the same time, such as their families, their companies, all their social media groups and so on.
Of course IoT devices won't all talk to every other device on the Internet, just like people don't all know everyone else. But if you think about how quickly data processing for machine learning has grown recently, it's not hard to imagine that connected devices and the data that they generate will enable ever larger numbers of applications. Every IoT application is a group in the sense of Reed's law.
The growth or IoT will open up possibilities for amazing new services and applications. One category of applications is healthcare. Devices with sensors for monitoring our bodies will not only make hospitals safer, but when we weave them into our everyday clothing, they can provide early warnings of life threatening illnesses.
Devices worn by a single person or installed in a single car form small networks themselves. Edge computers can process the information from those devices locally, making real-time reactions possible, and enabling new kinds of machine-assisted activities such as self-driving vehicles.
Looking at IoT through this perspective of network effects is one way to glimpse the future. Hopefully, this will make us a little bit smarter, not just about the bright side, but also about some of the risks and changes that lie ahead.