I’ll admit I’ve been lukewarm on the Internet of Things ever since someone described the “smart refrigerator” to me. In addition to monitoring and adjusting its energy use—a good thing-- a smart fridge will tell me when we are low on perishables. I can then link to my fridge from my smartphone while I am at the grocery store and rectify the situation.
Or I can just write out a list. I imagine I’ll need a password to use the grocery store’s WiFi and a password to log in to my fridge. I’ll probably have to scan the barcodes on my perishables before I leave for the store and hope that the barcodes for milk are the same at all stores. And, although I know technology can tell me when something is removed from the fridge (think hotel mini-bars), will it tell me when something’s put back empty?
Thanks to IDC I can propose a new moniker for the IoT—the Internet of Useful Things (IoUT). IDC has released a report on “meaningful use cases” in the IoT.
"A use case represents a detailed composition of a technology investment that is made to produce a set of end user benefits," said Marcus Torchia, research manager, IoT for IDC's Customer Insights and Analysis team, in a release. "The long term opportunity for IoT vendors is helping to identify and create immediate and residual benefits for end users through their technologies.”
IDC forecasts U.S. investment in the IoT will be more than $232 billion in 2016. Topping the list are investments in the the manufacturing and transportation verticals, where large data sets are used to optimize operational processes and extend the life of high capital cost assets. In the U.S., manufacturing will account for $35.5 billion of IoT investment and transportation $24.9 billion.
The case for utility in manufacturing is compelling: connected machines sharing data can run more efficiently; pace the manufacturing line; identify errors earlier in the process; run 24/7; collect data to prevent future errors; track consumed inventory – the list is potentially endless. Likewise, in transportation: trains will run more efficiently; avoid collisions; and control their own speed around dangerous turns. Cars will alert drivers to potential collisions and if one occurs, alert authorities.
Cross-industry investment, which represents use cases common to all industries, will approach $31 billion this year, according to IDC. These applications seem to have the most utility and will garner the lion’s share of U.S. investment. They include:
- Manufacturing operations, which supports digitally-executed manufacturing, or how manufacturers use intelligent and interconnected I/O (input output) tools – e.g. sensors, actuators, drives, vision/video equipment etc. – to enable the different components in the manufacturing field – e.g. machine tools, robots, conveyor belts etc.– to autonomously exchange information, trigger actions and control each other independently.
- Freight monitoring, which uses radio frequency identification (RFID), global positioning system (GPS), GPRS, and GIS technologies to create an intelligent, Internet-connected transportation system. This system carries out the intelligent recognition, location, tracking and monitoring of freight and cargo through exchanging information and real-time communications via wireless, satellite or other channels.
- Smart buildings, which utilize advanced automation and integration to measure, monitor, control, and optimize building operations and maintenance. The key concept is optimization – meaning the deployment of a set of integrated control systems capable of adapting in real time to both internal policies and external signals. These systems manage how building equipment operates to use energy in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
The next three largest IoT use cases in terms of U.S. revenue will be remote health management, smart grid (electricity), and smart home, according to IDC. The IoT use cases that will experience the greatest revenue growth in the U.S. over the 2015-2019 forecast period are in-store contextualized marketing, connected vehicles, and insurance telematics.
IDC expects U.S. IoT revenues will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.1 percent over the 2015-2019 forecast period, reaching more than $357 billion in 2019.
I realize the IoT is the next great hope to accelerate the electronics market, but I also remember what Tom Engibous, longtime CEO of Texas Instruments, once told me during a long-ago interview. He said that TI went through a phase of inventing for inventing’s sake. TI engineers were so enamored with technology that they developed things that nobody really needed. Engibous put TI back on track toward technologies that had practical applications across many markets.
Right now the smart fridge is low on my (handwritten) list of useful things.