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Aug 10, 2020

Gartner published an article on July 28th, 2020 arguing that, “IoT’s stand-alone marketing impact is disappearing.” As an electrical engineer, software developer, product manager and engineer, this term has been of keen interest to me over the last decade. I have been such a huge, “IoT fanboy,” that I went as far as to cofound a conference, called the IoTFuse Conference in 2015 which grew to be a nationally recognized event. I thought it would be interseting to dissect Gartner’s thoughts because:

  • I had originally not thought that the term, “IoT” would have as much staying power as it has had.
  • I’m intersted in where the term, “IoT” will continue to go in the coming years.

Gartner’s Approach

Gartner puts forward a hard-numbers prediction that the term, “Internet of Things,” will serve less as a communication mechanism measured by percentage of service providers using the term. Gartner is asserting that - broadly speaking, the term, “IoT,” will fade as, “[solutions] … are commoditized.” Gartner rests strategy recommendations in this paper on the assertion that, “by 2024, fewer than 30% of technology and service providers with IoT portfolios will include the term “IoT” in their messaging, down from 60% today.” Putting an actual number and date on a prediction is laudable because it’s falsifiable. Falsifiability is important in predictive sciences because if one makes a prediction that doesn’t include a hard timeframe and a way of quantifying or classifying what is being predicted, one’s prediction basically amounts to “hand waving,” meaning it’s not really even a prediction, it’s just talking around a subject using rhetoric.

That being said, the more falsifiable a prediction is, the greater range of possibilities that it could be wrong, and the higher chance for reward if it’s right - which is actually what makes these discussions interesting!

Gartner makes specific strategic recommendations based upon their prediction. An overly simplified way of summarizing their recommendations is that, “The risk capital is gone from IoT.” Gartner asserts that because IoT solutions have been commoditized, any internal IoT projects which get proposed may need to have shorter payback periods associated with them than previous years. I actually agree with this recommendation and have heard many of my IoTFuse subscribers, attendees from engineering divisions across different industries tell me that there has been a shift between 2017 and 2020 or so.

Of course Gartner’s perspective is aimed at a C-Level audience, as their main clients are CIO’s, COO’s and people who are interested in operational technologies from a budgeting and accounting standpoint. They sell information services to large companies and Fortune 500 companies, so there is an incentive to create an image of continuously moving forward, to make falsifiable predictions and also for Gartner to in a sense gain ownership over mnemonic terms. While Gartner may not be as much attempting to predict where the world will go from a bottom up approach as they are sway the opinions of their customers and convince these customers that they need to continue to purchase need Gartner products.

Analysing The Interest of “The Internet of Things” From The Standpoint of Alternate Tech Trends

While of course it is a truism that trends and products do have lifecycles, predicting and timing those lifecycles is incredibly difficult. This difficulty is compounded when you take into account the fact that some products and concepts are very narrow and mean a definite thing to certain audiences, for example the concept of a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, while other concepts are much more broad, as with the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is really more of an abstraction meaning different things to different professions whereas a VPN is a defined communications system. Some industries and sectors do not even use the term, “The Internet of Things,” such as the medical and healthcare sector, which tend instead to use the term, “Telehealth,” as a catch all to include many health sensing devices which are indeed internet connected and use many of the Internet of Things protocols and platforms that people keenly interested in the term, “Internet of Things,” work on all the time.