In the December 2015 issue of Forbes magazine, in his article “Riding the Rise of the Machines” Jon D. Markman writes, “The Internet of Things is easily the most overhyped technology advance of the last 2,000 years. It’s less important than agriculture, the internal combustion engine, the electric light, the airplane, antibiotics, wireless phones, space travel, the Internet itself and, arguably, sugarless gum.” Though starting off on a mildly negative connotation, he continues by saying, “But it’s still incredibly important and could represent one of the most lucrative investment opportunities of our lifetime.” Something should start smelling familiar in the kitchen now, but let’s go further into the article.
Mr. Markman believes that connecting all things and everyone to the web over the next 15 years will create a web of dynamic intelligence yielding what he believes to be “stunning productivity [and] environmental, medical, entertainment and human benefits.” Additionally, “The new connective mesh could usher in the sort of utopian ‘hive mind’ imagined by science fiction and currently practiced by bees and ants…” Can you smell it yet?
First off, I agree with Mr. Markman in that the Internet of Things (IoT) is highly overhyped. I remember going to Internet World, a long gone and defunct tradeshow, at the Javits Center in 1998. Every other booth had a demo going on involving the connection of just about every home and business appliance to the Internet. Refrigerators with LCDs on their front doors connected to a PC within and interfaced either by T1, Ethernet, or, believe it or plain old telephone service (POTS) lines to an Internet service provider (ISP).
Webcams were monitoring homes and businesses. People could keep an eye on the babysitter, the liquor cabinet, open the garage door, turn off the heat, lock the backdoor, and check their bank balances over the Internet. The only real differences were the interfaces and speed. You needed a desktop or laptop computer with an Internet connection, which was not broadband in most cases. In other words, no one was doing this from a mobile phone at the time and few were doing it fast. But it certainly was easy to see the advancements coming.
Also around that same time, design teams around the globe were sharing test instruments and data via the Internet. As I remember, it was called networking. And if history teaches anything is that you can network just about anything to the web. So we’ve merely substituted IoT for networking.
On the investment front, as per Mr. Markman, the IoT “could represent one of the most lucrative investment opportunities of our lifetime.” Going back in time again to that period from 1997 to about 2001, a component of IoT was the “next big thing” to invest in, a.k.a., the Internet. Most will remember what happened when the bubble burst.
However, there is something that no one seems to point out when it comes to investing in technology, particularly technologies that masquerade as being “new”. That is, with a few exceptions, i.e., Apple, IBM, Microsoft, etc., you do not invest for long term growth. Get in, don’t get greedy, and get out quick. Simplified further, buy low, sell a little higher, and then don’t look back…ever.
One last note about Mr. Markman’s concept that we could be creating a “sort of utopian ‘hive mind’ imagined by science fiction and currently practiced by bees.” It makes one wonder that in the so-called worldwide hive, who gets to be a drone, worker, or queen? ~MD