From connected products to smart lives, we heard from a range of industry experts at the forefront of the ‘revolution’.
One thing was clear – and that was that nothing is clear! With obvious frustration at the speed of change, Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Culture and Digital Economy, set the scene by reminding us of Tony Blair’s promise that ‘all government services would be digitised by 2005’. She went on to say she believed the IoT is impossible to overhype, as it will be ‘the biggest change to our lives since electricity’.
No wonder the world isn’t quite ready. With countless questions throughout the debate in terms of security, infrastructure and regulation, not to mention a general lack of consumer awareness, the concept of a connected world raises issues way beyond what can be foreseen today.
Are smart fridges really the way forward? Head of Innovation at Forum for the Future, Hugh Knowles, called into question many a use case existing under the guise of ‘smart’. His opinion: ’The Internet of Things is not the goal, connecting stuff is not the goal. A liveable city is the goal – meeting really interesting needs’.
But at what cost will we live in a fully connected world? Must we resign ourselves to being tracked non-stop, to willingly hand over our data to big business and relinquish all privacy? The subject certainly deserved some scrutiny, but as Martin Howell, Director of Affairs at Cubic pointed out, ‘Nobody cares!...after all we give it away freely on a daily basis through the likes of Facebook’. In fact for services like Facebook and more, we may think of ourselves as consumers but really at this stage we’re a data product, happy for a service to be provided in exchange for our data being harvested.
With so many complexities, it’s hard to imagine a fully connected world happening any time soon. As Paul Copping, Smart Cities Advisor for Digital Greenwich stated: ‘The bubble has not even fully formed yet – ‘smart’ cities rely on investment, adoption, benefits and value – we’re still at the pre-investment stage’.
But for digital innovators, the challenge remains the same. Experiences need to be smart and provide value, starting with the customer, not the ‘thing’ – empowering people to live better lives. As our own Peter Veash said, we ourselves are the guinea pigs, ‘the beta testers of the connected age, the early adopters living the MVPs that will drive the change needed’.