The big challenge ahead for the Internet of Everything (IoE) is to bring it to the mainstream—and a couple of keys to that transition are the proliferation of smart phones and wearable devices, said a panel of technologists and investors at the Techonomy Lab: Man, Machines, and the Network conference on Thursday in Menlo Park, CA.
“I finally feel like my day has come,” said Trae Vassallo, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “And the reason is smart phones. The cost to build connected things is orders of magnitude cheaper and easier than a few years ago. And now everyone has an interface to the world in their hands.”
She noted that she wears every smart gadget out there—wristbands, Nike shoes, Google Glass. Wrist devices are especially appealing because “this is socially acceptable,” Vassallo said. “Hands free and always on is transformative. I can be doing anything and easily send email or get directions. It’s really powerful.”
“We’re excited about the wearable computing breakthrough,” said Frank Chen, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “User interfaces, gesture recognition, tied to natural language processing—the keyboard and mouse have dominated the world longer than we would’ve thought. It’s a great opportunity” for entrepreneurs to create new ways of using technology.
Dave Icke of MC10 is making wearable devices that are soft and flexible and can be worn attached to the skin like a band-aid. “We take the conventional computer chip technology out of rigid boxy packages,” he said. “We’re focused on soft forms that can sense the human body. Most of us don’t like to tolerate wristbands or chest straps. If we lower the barriers to adoption of wearable computers it will accelerate adoption.”
These developments are “transformative,” said Kerrie Holley of IBM Research. It’s part of a half-century long cycle of changes in computing that started with tabulating machines in the early twentieth century, then moved to programmable computers, and now is moving to cognitive, sensing computers. “We see three worlds coming together,” he said. There’s the physical world of things, human beings, and the digital universe—“all blending together now.”
All in all, it’s a “revenge of the nerds” moment, Chen said. These inventions from technologists are redefining the mainstream. “For generations, Hollywood taught us what mainstream was, and now Silicon Valley is showing what mainstrem will be,” Chen said. The IoE will do that by bringing computing and programming into everyday intimate life.