Forget Connected Things and M2M, Make Them Enchanted Items

November 4th, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

Longtime readers may have noticed that there are some hot new topics/buzzwords I don’t seem to favor, and on top of that list in my own mind are M2M and the ‘Internet of Things’.  But Mike Manos over on LooseBolts has a piece out today that finally resonated with me. It’s not that these topics aren’t real opportunities and new directions, it’s that the packaging is so wonkish. 

Machines talking to machines is both too indirect for most to really get excited about, and who cares if things are connected to each other and the cloud and all that– what does it do for me exactly? Manos, however, put his finger on that question at last by pointing to Ditto Labs’ David Rose suggestion that we all start talking about what it really means to have things connected by calling them ‘enchanted objects’ rather than simply ‘things’, and I’m adding my voice to that choir.

When you think about it, what is a connected object with cloud-powered capabilities except a magically-enhanced everyday object? Forget that WiFi-capable refrigerator that tracks what you’re low on and reminds you while you’re shopping, yet sounds frighteningly complicated to non-technical buyers who never figured out how to properly configure their VCR.

When that thing’s a fridge with a +1 handle of remembrance and it just works out of the box after you log in, it’s something else entirely. And that’s not an M2M inventory tag, if done properly it’s a talisman of global visibility.  And Google Glasses aren’t just connected eyewear, they’re +3 knowledge goggles (perhaps with a -2 distraction curse in early models).

Sometimes in this industry we all get too caught up in our own terminology. We expect the rest of the world to know what a cloud is and why virtualization is changing everything yet again and how it can help in their daily lives. But by and large they don’t, and we often struggle to properly explain why it’s revolutionary beyond the entertainment value derived from new ways to watch videos, listen to music, launch angry birds at bad piggies, and slice airborne fruit.

The technology that is beginning to mature is about so much more than doing old things in more flexible and cheaper ways. It’s more than a ‘disruptive technology’ in that sense.  The MBAish way that M2M and the Internet of Things are presented simply doesn’t convey the fact that we are now developing the technology to give ordinary, everyday objects what just twenty years ago would have been magical powers.

So rather than saying “let’s connect that to the internet” and having that be the cool part, let’s instead think of what would be really cool pseudo-magical enhancements to particular items and then find a way to so enchant them appropriately via the cloud.  If we can’t enchant an item usefully, then we probably shouldn’t connect it.  But if we can, then we change it forever.

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Categories: Cloud Computing

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