CES: IoT data on full overdrive, overkill


The more things change, the more they stay the same. That old adage holds especially true when it comes to the IoT. Or at least it did at CES again this year where IoT data products were again in overdrive, many in outright overkill, and the same problems with data deluge still existed.

To see a recap of CES last year, see my post "Big data lessons from CES: IoT deluge, analysis bottlenecks and consumer rejects." While I mean no disparagement of CES or its organizers then or now—after all, the products presented there are not under their control—I could have just reprinted that post as coverage of the event this year.

Take for example, the FeverFrida, a wireless cloud-based thermometer with Bluetooth for kids. Yes, it's another wearable – an infant skin patch to be precise. The thing provides "continual temperature monitoring from anywhere every four seconds." Really? Why, exactly, would you want to take a kid's temperature every four seconds? Total overkill.

And if put in wide use, this thermometer represents what would likely be an unnecessary data deluge for medical practitioners and parents alike. "It preserves medical history data to share with pediatricians via the Export Report Feature and most importantly alerting parents of a fever spike through a custom threshold setting," according to the email pitch the company sent me.

Move over, helicopter parents: Here come the drone parents, hovering over a bevy of apps reporting metrics on body data from their kids. Yeah, forget parents getting any work done that way.

Pediatricians may find the data deluge from stuff like this more annoying than helpful. Body temps vary according to where on the body they're taken, how the kid is dressed or bundled, and the environmental temp. So, while looking at this data, how is the good doctor to know where the patch was applied on the kid's body, what the kid was dressed or bundled in, and whether the kid was in an over-warm room or outside in frigid temperatures? Context matters, in other words, and too many IoT products don't provide context to the data they collect.

I'm not picking on this one product. The exact same assessment applies to most IoT consumer products now. The industry is still in overdrive and overkill modes. Very few developers have stopped to think what information is actually important and focus instead on simply finding data to collect and sell.

Perhaps that is why the News Republic survey, conducted at the time of CES this year, found IoT "came in third with 15.5 percent, but with only half of the votes of virtual and augmented reality." In that same survey, wearables tied for fourth (with 3D printing), "capturing 13 percent of the vote. Big news last year, less so in 2016." It's tough for consumers to get excited about living in a shrinking fishbowl.

At some point, the IoT focus needs to crystallize around helpful data presented in context. Until we get there, chaos reigns.

Craig Bachmann, senior director of the Open Digital Program at global industry association TM Forum, believes "this approach is problematic" and I think that is the understatement of the year.

"With business models, market expectations and technical capabilities constantly changing, there is no end state to IoT, no ultimate set of business or consumer products."

Yes, like I said, chaos reigns.

"To truly reap the multifaceted benefits of IoT, industry collaboration is imperative," Bachmann continued. "No application alone will solve IoT's challenges, as killer apps have done in the past to drive sales in software, gaming, hardware and consumer devices. To succeed in IoT, it's the grouping of applications and the development of a broader roadmap of challenges that will be the trick."

When it comes to IoT, it's past time for the industry to collaborate on a map to where we all want to go. Can we stop the "any and all data is good" thinking already?

Of course there was plenty of cool tech at CES too, like this list in a post in Wired. -Pam, @BakerCom1

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