Internet of Things: The Roulette Game of the Decade

Two stories on the Internet of Things (IoT) caught my eye this week. First, IDC’s prediction that the IoT market will balloon from US$1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020. Second, the fact it took hackers 15 seconds to hack the Google Nest thermostat – the device Google wants to make the center of the IoT for the home.

These two stories aren’t atypical, either. Gartner has similarly overblown market growth predictions, although they do admit a measure of overhypedness in the IoT market (ya think?). And as far as whether Nest is an unusual instance, unfortunately, the IoT is rife with security problems.

What are we to make of these opposite, potentially contradictory trends? Here are some possibilities:

We simply don’t care that the IoT is insecure. We really don’t mind that everyone from Russian organized criminals to the script kiddie down the block can hack the IoT. We want it anyway. The benefits outweigh any drawbacks.

Vendors will sufficiently address the IoT’s security issues, so by 2020, we’ll all be able to live in a reasonably hacker-free (and government spying-free) world of connected things. After all, vendors have done such a splendid job making sure our everyday computers are hack and spy-free so far, right?

Perhaps one or both of the above possibilities will take place, but I’m skeptical. Why, then, all the big numbers? Perhaps it’s the analysts themselves? Here are two more possibilities:

Vendors pay analysts (directly or indirectly) to make overblown market size predictions, because such predictions convince customers, investors, and shareholders open their wallets. Never mind the hacker behind the curtain, we’re the great and terrible Wizard of IoT!

Analysts simply ignore factors like the public perception of security when making their predictions. Analysts make their market predictions by asking vendors what their revenues were over the last few years, putting the numbers into a spreadsheet, and dragging the cells to the right. Voila! Market predictions. Only there’s no room in the spreadsheet for adverse influences like security perception issues.

Maybe the analysts are the problem. Or just as likely, I got out on the wrong side of bed this morning. Be that as it may, here’s a contrarian prediction for you:

Both consumers and executives will get fed up with the inability of vendors to secure their gear, and the IoT will wither on the vine.

The wheel is spinning, folks. Which will it be? Time to place your bets!

the IoT will wither on the vine
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