The numbers associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) are both huge (anything from 50 billion to 100 billion objects to be connected by 2020, generating, by some forecasts, $800bn in revenues) and tiny (sensors the size of dust particles).
The extremes themselves make the subject compelling, as does the name, with its sense of a whole new future unfolding like a sci-fi movie in our own lifetimes.
In many respects, the technologies are available to make this happen. But without a firm commercial footing, the IoT will remain in the realm of research labs and PR companies. We know from many generations of connected technology – public Wi-Fi, 3G, even the Internet itself – that consumer uptake usually lags technology, and that sound profit models usually lag consumer interest.
The Internet of Things will be no different. Before it really does start to change the way we live – and it does have the potential, bit by bit, to do that – there need to be some difficult questions.