Internet of Things Name Stupid or Brilliant

Internet of Things Name: Stupid or Brilliant?

4 minute read
Dom Nicastro avatar

What’s in a name? 

Not much — if you’re referring to the Internet of Things, said Benny Placido, business development director for Edinburgh, Scotland-based Bluemungus, an app and Web developer.

“I’ve been around the industry a long time, and these phrases become meaningless after a while,” Placido said. “The concept behind the Internet of Things isn’t bad. But when I first heard the name, it made me laugh. I thought, ‘What the hell is the Internet of Things?’”

So what’s in this name, we ask? Internet of Things. IoT. Cisco even deemed it the Internet of Everything.

Workable? Another tiring buzzword that will just cause confusion and eventually slip away? We know Google’s answer. It put up $3.2 billion toward it this week.

MIT Lab Founder: Necessary Evil

Sanjay Sarma.jpg

How does the creator of the phrase feel? We tried  Kevin Ashton, first credited with coming up with the Internet of Things. He was a tad busy this week, his assistant, Paige Russell, told us.

We did, however, pick the brain of Sanjay Sarma, professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-chair of the MIT Auto-ID Labs, part of a network of academic research labs that develop new technologies for global commerce.

In the late 1990s, Sarma and Ashton helped create those labs out of MIT, and 15 years later, the labs run the Internet of Things Conference coming this October on MIT’s home turf in Cambridge, Mass.

Admitting that names expand and lose meaning over time, Sarma stressed the IoT phrase is hot.

“And you need to give it a name,” he told CMSWire. “Names are a necessary evil. But a name doesn’t solve a problem. You still need a vision of what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do.”

So what is it NOT? Even Sarma said there is a struggle to fully understand IoT.

“What does it mean? What does it not?” said Sarma. He surmised IoT this way: “Just a way to explain connecting inanimate objects to the Internet.”

How About ‘The Internet’

Benny Placido.jpg

To that point, however, Placido suggested calling the phenomenon of connected devices the “Internet.”

Is there really a need, he said, to change things up with the addition of “of things” to the moniker?

Although he’s a big supporter of the concept and movement behind it — he cited a museum’s effort to connect devices to paintings for a better visitor customer experience — Placido has used terms like “horrible,” “stupid” and “ridiculous” when it comes to the actual “Internet of Things” name.

Learning Opportunities

The concept, though? That's "both interesting and motivating but also worrisome around security and privacy.”

“All the big companies like IBM and Cisco will make of the Internet of Things as they will, and rightly so. I don’t blame them for that,” Placido said. “The industry — different parts, different companies and organizations -- will define the Internet of Things however it wishes and that will be the confusing aspect.”

People know what the Internet is — and that’s enough for them, he added. “Therefore, on balance,” Placido told CMSWire, “it should just be the Internet.”

The good news? The IoT is putting more of a focus on physical things, Placido said, and maybe that’s a good thing for manufacturing.

“The Internet of Things is starting to talk more about physical devices rather than just software,” he said.

Scott Strawn, senior analyst who covers Google and Amazon for the International Data Corporation (IDC), said he understands people may have trouble with the phrase. He described the Internet of Things as a means of connecting and transmitting information for purposes beyond smartphones and tablets.

“It’s fundamentally different than how the Internet has always been,” he said.

What’s Next?

Sarma, like Placido, expects companies to put their own point of view on the Internet of Things anyway, following in the footsteps of Cisco. Name spinoffs in general are quite common, he said, referencing how e-commerce formed from the web.

“These words evolve over time,” said Sarma, whose MIT team Auto-Id team developed the Electronic Product Code (EPC), a universal identifier that provides a unique identity for every physical object anywhere in the world. “For people who complain about the Internet of Things I say come up with something.”

As for what it is now, Sarma pointed to Nest Labs as a prime example. Rather than following a peer-to-peer model, Nest technology and devices talk to the cloud. That approach, he said, is the future.

“We are surrounded by things we depend on,” Sarma said of the Internet of Things. “It’s a huge market.”

Title image by YuryZap (Shutterstock). 

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