Presently scaling the peak of Gartner-style exalted expectations, the internet of things continues to position itself as one of the potentially more dynamic markets gathering around the periphery of the digital economy. The regularity with which the pundits currently revamp statistical forecasts does, at times, invite us to consider it already a foregone conclusion that this most emerging of technologies will eventually manoeuver itself into every corner of life as we know it – 50bn URL-enabled devices within the next 5yrs, $40 trillion of new business opportunity over the next 25.
Yet beyond the progress already achieved in current Sensing Planet, SmartGrid, SmartCities, healthcare initiatives presently being engineered via major corporates such as IBM, Cisco, Siemens etc. there is presently a degree of uncertainty as to what this impending IoT revolution will herald for the creative industries in terms of opportunities.
Will the rich store of innovation possibilities arising from flows of fresh data give rise to a whole new raft of products and services? Or will it be a case of locking down in more of an improving role, providing design, user experience and promotional refinements to the grand schemes already underway in the realms of utilities efficiency, emergency management and public security?
Undeniably the creative industries have the potential to lead the kind of 'bottom up’ innovation groundswell that will place the user fairly and squarely at the heart of the unfolding IoT experience. For example, their proven track record in developing business models around the exchange of open data would suggest they are exceptionally well placed to further develop renewed and potentially transformational scenarios that will provide expression to the everyday social realities of disparate web-based networks and physical communities. Plus such people-centred enterprises will additionally serve to hold in check the ‘top-down' tools dissemination approach presently being pursued by the tech premier league.
Though, as always, one or two pretty deep potholes scatter the road surface ahead. As the creative industries step up to assume a more essential role in orchestrating this next epoch of the information age, their proven expertise in the science of collaboration will be put fully to the test. Not only with end-users, with infrastructure programmers, coders, and standards experts, but with legislators, professional associations, and maybe it will also be necessary to include in the equation other parties such as issue-based groups, student representatives, hobbyists, hackers / tinkerers etc. For as we continue to shape the future IoT ecosystem as one that will evolve to deliver real value, it is also becoming increasingly clear that the broader the range of voices around the table in these still relatively early days, the more likely we will be able to implement the best conditions for success.
Moreover, with the grey clouds of climate change, peak oil & major societal reorganisation already looming into focus on the horizon, it is not beyond the bounds of credibility that we are also entering an era when technology-driven innovation will be increasingly required to seek other margins than those of profit. If when we look back in 10 years time, the defining internet of things legacy is that of hordes of chatty, human-aping gadgets and devices predominantly tracking mundanities of behaviour and consumption, might we then not be tempted to consider our agency as citizens to have been rendered something of a disservice?
After all, it is not the ‘things’ themselves, the consumer items per se, however 'extraordinary' ( e.g. flying robot penguins, quadcopters that can play tennis, Wi-Fi rabbits that tell us the weather... ), about which we care but surely the cultural and social meanings that may come to be derived from this new hyperconnectivity. More often than not it is in that territory which the University of Michigan's Professor Ackerman defines as the ‘social-technical gap', the space that is located inbetween the latest devices, the space in which people and ideas converge, where a lot of genuinely awesome and cool stuff can happen.
Therefore as part of our activities to assist in co-ordinating the present TSB IoT Convergence £4m Funding Call, here at The Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network (CI KTN) we are currently curating a series of guest blog posts submitted by a number of key industry experts. Through providing a platform that will showcase both current informed opinion and up-to-date industry insights, we will, over the coming weeks, be presenting a number of cutting edge perspectives that in their sum total will explore with us this important theme. Look out for the first of these guest contributions later this month. Plus if you consider this is a debate to which you would also like to contribute, then please email your own 'perspective' to myself at: firstname.lastname@example.org