What Is Up With The IoX?
Recently I received a synopsis of a report from Opinion Matters (commissioned by Eseye) that seems to imply that the IoX is having a hard time getting traction.
So, what is new? I have been discussing how the noise and hype around the IoX (and, pretty much everything else) has been just that for years now.
Just like 5G, network slicing, private networks, the smart home, autonomous vehicles, and so many other new or emerging platforms and technologies, I have developed a real antipathy for what seems like unending hype that eventually is dispelled as just noise. I cannot think of one platform or technology that has lived up to the hype in the technology sector, across the board, over the last few years.
One excellent example of the hype is the early media battles between the major carriers over 5G. For the first year or so the hype was utterly ridiculous. And two or three years later the real picture hardly resembles the hype back then. In fact MWC Barcelona this month did a very good job of pointing out how 5G has yet to “deliver on its promise” and might never happen the way it was envisioned at its inception.
Not that hype is bad in itself as long as it does not get out of control and sets reasonable expectations… oh wait, reasonable is the exact opposite of hype – although one of the definitions of hype is publicity (which should be truthful and honest). Realistic expectations would bring whatever it is up to speed (let us stay with wireless) as it matures and grows and gets people on board when deliverables are available. It causes the user to stop listening after a time when what is hyped does not happen. In 5G’s case, hype is partially responsible for the lack of interest in 5G by the consumer because no deliverables appeared when they claimed they would, and what did appear was below expectations.
Hype can not only be puffery or ballyhoo, but it can also be dangerous – autonomous cars for example (the Tesla that killed two people recently). There was a great deal of debate over exactly how the Tesla autonomous functions were hyped vs. what they actually are capable of after that incident.
There are other downsides with too much hype. One example of that was the over-the-top performance 5G was supposed to deliver. When it finally started to deploy, the results were dismal. So, people did not buy into it. Then the industry came back and said it was early in the game and the benefits would not appear until the platform has matured a bit.
Now the Internet of Anything/Everything (IoX) is in the crosshairs. The Opinion Matters report presents some interesting statistics. For example, fully 77 percent of recent IoX projects did not live up to expectations (less than fully successful as they spin it). Less than 25 percent met or exceeded expectations. 25 percent got neutral grades (neither successful nor unsuccessful) and a marginal percentage did not succeed at all.
Depending upon how one spins the numbers, it can be read that most IoX projects do not live up to what is expected. On the other hand, are they doing what they are supposed to, and the hype caused unreasonable expectations? That is an interesting question. I am willing to bet the answer is yes.
There are several reasons why the IoX is still shrouded in fog. The IoX is a complex platform – much more complex than the existing IoT. It will require the integration of every wireless, wireline, and related technology at some point. And it will require intelligence (AI, machine learning/intelligence, self-managing networks and devices, autonomous operation, and more). That is a long way away from happening. I have presented arguments to that in previous missives so I will not rehash them here.
Going forward, much of its success will hang on 5G. So, until 5G matures, the IoX will continue to see compartmentalized applications and specific use cases where the IoT has existed all along (mostly industrial so far), and some early forays into new territory.
However, while I believe the complexity and, to some degree, misunderstanding of what it is to be the main reason, it is not the only one. Doing a drill down on the survey, as usual, security bubbled to the top as a primary concern. Nearly 40 percent of the polled source rated it as a major concern.
Another is that its simplicity has been overstated. Making the digital transformation is not as simple as plugging a “smart solution” into your devices and then getting all the positive outcomes, insights, and actions.
The IoX universe is full of devices with one foot in the analog world and will remain that way for some time. There are also a gazillion low-end devices all over the place. Even if one goes all digital there are digital devices that operate on the low end of the spectrum. They run low-quality, low-code, low-complexity hardware, and software susceptible to the kinds of vulnerabilities. Many devices are and will remain, vulnerable due to software exploits, weak cryptographic usage, authentication failures, and difficulty in upgrading. And, there is the cost of all of this. There is little data on just what creating a fully digital system (greenfield or upgraded) will cost.
Then there is interoperability. Anyone in technology knows about interoperability issues. The IoX will be the poster child of interoperability issues.
There are, of course, other challenges. Some are specific to a particular segment, others global across the platform (scalability, for example).
There is little doubt that wide-scale interconnect across most “everything” will eventually occur. In the end, and from a birds-eye perspective, the IoX is still a moving target. It is not a singular, congealed object with a clear form and function. To wit, the many different Internets of things (medical, industrial, educational, etc.).
The IoX of today is not the IoT of yesterday. At some point, the IoX will literally have everything connected to it – devices, people, animals, vehicles, UAVs, satellites, and more. So the time has come to drop the idea that the IoX will be a definable object with bounds and edges. The IoXaq will be a conglomeration of IoTs. There will be no start to it. It will simply, like the universe, be here one day.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.