I recently read an article by Strategy& on the Internet of Things (IoT) entitled “A Strategist’s Guide to the Internet of Things”. This article begins with the current state of electronic world. There will be 50 billion Internet responsive devices by 2020, and only a third will be smart devices. The rest will be…well, hard to put into a single word. They will range from smart appliances to RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chips and populate nearly everything so long as there is meaningful information worth mining. According to the article, there are three broad strategic categories within the IoT. There are enablers, enhancers, and engagers. Enablers generate and instate underlying technology; Engagers deliver IoT to customers through a streamlined one-stop shop; Enhancers concoct value-added services for engagers. These categories are trying to approach a very complicated problem with structure. Yet, structure implies a foundation—and in reading this article I came upon a cliché but logical question, “Is there an Internet of People (IoP)?” My question, after a brief skim was, of course, answered. Yes, the concept was used, but in a different manner than I had anticipated. The victor to this vanguard saw the IoP as a shift in the way government and economic models operate under the IoT, and he approaches this question philosophically, “The social and economic contracts between people, businesses and governments are undergoing a fundamental change and new rules of the game and governance models are needed for the future digital societies”.
This same thought that had piqued my interest had also led another to the same conclusion: the IoP is the foundation of the IoT. Sensors and data collectors respond to products, and products respond to people. An example can be seen in current political revolutions: In 2010, Hong Kongians displayed disfavor against anti-democratic sentiment from Mainland China through texting, twitter, and Facebook (The Economist: Protest in Hong Kong). When China made such communication impossible in recent protests by disconnecting communication infrastructure; protesters turned to FireChat, a texting app that operates in short range without Wi-Fi. The irony of this situation is simple: humans used democracy to support democracy through technology. Most recently, an article about Iran by the Economist, in the most prescient sense, assessed Iran through saying: “The revolution is over.” Yet, in many ways, the revolution in Iran has just begun. As the article reports, “So-called VPNtrepreneurs sell software and access codes to bypass controls. E.G. a 21-year-old, who resells software, says he charges a dollar a month or $10 a year to his 80,000 clients and he uses his day job at an IT company as a cover. And, occasionally he pays the cyber-police a few hundred dollars in bribes.” No longer can Ruhollah Khomeini rule as absolute dictator. Power has been decentralized. This lovely article was an honorable Facebook post of mine: The point being, that people are people and each person is different. This is the irony of the IoT-for once mass production has turned to personalization.
According to The Economist, Amazon.com is sensational because it sells over 230M products that are each accessible within seconds. Even the concept of Amazon appears decentralized. It doesn’t matter where you are; it will be there quick and, in most cases, relatively cheap. It is important to recognize that this decentralization has been underway for a long while. The past two decades have proved that people can work from home without losing connection. This is amazing. I remember watching Austin Powers when I was younger and gapping at the videoconference scene between Dr. Evil and World Leaders. I thought, “What if that was real?” In 2013, FaceTime mass-produced this reality as a Voice over IP (VoIP). Soon Facebook, Gmail, and other messaging services also made this free. Even though, Skype has been doing this for a decade. I took advantage of these developments while I studied in London last year, and in many ways, I felt much closer to home that the “pond” used to suggest. So close, in fact, that I didn’t come home once during that period. Connectivity, essentially, has changed the way that we communicate. Price point no longer inhibits the amount of time we spend on long distance calls. This increase in connectivity options has literally come from an increase in connectivity. The Economist recently posed an honest question on hotspots, “As Wi-Fi proliferates, who needs cellular wireless?” By 2018 the number of public hotspots is expected to increase from 47M to 340M. The point being, that technology has changed human behavior. It should be no surprise that communication companies make up the largest companies. Technocracy, a term developed by Californian engineer, William Henry Smyth, in 1919, rules the world. Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison – these are the famous men of today, sorry Jamie Dimon but you’re a rare example, and they are famous because they are accentuating our most important human activity: communication.
This is why the IoP, through the foundation of techno-communication, is being backed into by the IoT. As we push against products and they push against us—An Internet of People is going to include the customization of not only our products but of ourselves.