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Making Sense of CES’s “Internet of Things” Trend

Cloud is the platform to host the applications and the mobile platform connects the devices

This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was all about connected living with concrete examples of how an "Internet of Things" can transform our homes

Despite promises of a "smarter home" as far back as the 1933 World's Fair, we're finally seeing an inflection point in its evolution, thanks to cloud and mobile computing. Many of the demonstrations at CES illustrate that with cloud, we have a platform we didn't have in the past - and it's a breakthrough.

Cloud is the platform to host the applications and the mobile platform connects the devices. With a cloud, televisions, computers and mobile devices can better connect to smart meters, lights, appliances, plugs and sensors within the home as well as with outside services.

Demos abound at CES showcasing new efficiencies and benefits of a connected home for:

  • Entertainment: This includes video on-demand, video communication, personalizing services and using voice and gesture to access entertainment
  • Safety and security: Through sensors, consumers can see on their smartphones who is ringing their doorbell
  • Energy management: When you give consumers feedback on their heating and electricity consumption they are more likely to decrease it
  • Health and well-being: Physical therapists can analyze data on how therapy is going, whether the patient needs more help

Consumers are interested in using their mobile phones to control a range of activities in the home. Vodafone is working on a project that combines their mobile technologies with cloud computing to enable the remote management of smarter home appliances and services. Machine-to-machine technology connects home appliances wirelessly to the Internet. STMicroelectronics and Shaspa are working with IBM to tap cloud and mobile computing so consumers can interact with their home using voice recognition and physical gestures.

Beyond greater entertainment and convenience, this Internet of Things has evolved into a business opportunity - especially around analytics. For example, cloud makes it possible for Smart TV makers to recommend new watching experiences to individuals based on their past selections. In addition, Smart TV makers will be able to target advertising at the device level to individuals, and its advertising partners can offer special deals and discounts that are custom-designed for them. Welcome to the era of the market of one.

Before we see mainstream adoption, one challenge that the industry must overcome is the massive digital convergence. Parks Associates forecasts that more than 8 billion devices will be connected on the home network by year-end 2015. That's quite a Tower of Babel in your home if these devices and appliances can't communicate.

That's why at this CES we saw appliance makers, mobile providers and other manufacturers form ecosystems to support this convergence - from the Internet of Things Consortium to the Smart TV Alliance to Technicolor's Qeo. It's essential to adopt technology standards that make it easy to connect devices and services the way children build villages out of LEGO blocks.

By creating open ecosystems, the developers of digital services and content will be able to create applications that can run on any device or network. It's an approach that will save money and time for companies and make life easier for consumers as well. Think of it as a social network for digital devices. It's exciting to think that in the not-so-distant future, as electronics technology advances further, gadgets will soon be able to sense and anticipate consumer wants and needs in an even more intuitive way. In the past, people had to adapt to their electronics; in the future, devices will perceive and seamlessly respond to user needs and requests. The cloud will help bring these advances home.

More Stories By Martin Kienzle

Dr. Martin Kienzle is Electronics Industry Leader at IBM Research. In this capacity he is bringing the IBM Research technology portfolio to bear on problems of IBM’s electronics industry customers. Current focus areas are cloud technology, service delivery platforms, and helping customers to make the transition from product business to product plus service businesses, supporting the smarter products and services for the home vision within IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy.

Dr. Kienzle has received a PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and holds degrees from the University of Toronto and the Technical University of Karlsruhe. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE. He has participated in numerous academic conferences on media technology as presenter, program committee member, and chair. He has authored more than thirty scientific papers and holds fourteen international patents.

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