If the Internet of Things Will Be So Big, Why Is It Still a Mystery?

A new market research study available from a British firm, Companies and Markets, predicts that by 2017 the global Internet of Things market will reach sales of $290 billion.

First, wow.

Second, I'm forced to ask again: If the "IoT" has such short-term promise (not to mention its long-term transformational impact on every aspect of our society and economy), why does the very term, let alone the examples that are already making it a reality, remain such a mystery in the U.S? I have yet to find an intelligent layman who's already familiar with the IoT before I explain it.

Just in case you're part of this vast majority of Americans, the Internet of Things refers to linking "things," such as smartphones, automotive computers and industrial sensors, primarily through the same Internet that we humans are linked through. Among other things, the IoT will allow Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication without the necessity of humans linking the machines. Experts predict that it will allow transformations such as making health care a true partnership between patient and doctor, radically reducing traffic congestion, and streamlining manufacturing and distribution.

As for why there's so little consciousness of the Internet of Things, I suspect a major factor is the absence of any sort of trade association or lobbying group to build awareness through a coordinated effort (there is a trade association called the IPSO Alliance, but its mission appears to be limited to advocating for devices that each have a distinctive Internet Protocol address, rather than, for example, lobbying for federal support). A lot of companies that are building IoT devices don't bother to label them that way -- they just do their own thing in isolation.

At any rate, whether there's widespread awareness of the IoT or not, it is coming: that report from Companies and Markets says that last year the market was worth $44 billion, and that it will have a compound annual growth rate of 30.1 percent from this year to 2017. The lion's share of the growth will come from the Asia Pacific region, largely because of massive support by the Chinese government.

The Internet of Things -- ready or not, it's going to transform our lives (and will have major privacy and security implications that deserve discussion now rather than later). Don't be surprised!