Internet of Things vs Space Junk
On a ferry from Singapore to Bintan island recently while on holiday with my family it struck me that devices like the Fitbit on my own wrist, were closed platforms, that is, I could not install 3rd party apps on them.
This in 2015 seemed to me a ridiculous situation, in light of the massively successful Apple iOS and Google Android smartphone platforms which are for all intents and purposes “open” per se, in that you can with relative ease create, publish and use 3rd party apps on the likes of the Apple iPhone, iPad, and soon apparently an iWatch, and a plethora of Android tablet and phone devices.
Staring out of the awesome China sea at the time, I had the sense that we were in effect just creating yet more “space junk” and that like me, others were certain to have a top draw at home or in the office, filled with said space junk in the form of multiple devices which were tried and in time let drift into that special place unused gizmos and gadgets go, AKA the top draw, and in effect become “space junk” as it were.
I recalled a project I had worked on which addresses this very issue with the electronic funds transfer point of sale ( EFTpos ) terminal platform, where early EFTpos terminals were only designed for a single app, and a single purpose, being to run card processing application for whichever financial institution or business was funding the development, more often than not the likes of a bank or a credit card company such as American Express, or MasterCard, Visa et al.
Somewhere around 2004 from memory I worked on a project which solved the issue of running multiple apps, in a similar fashion to modern smartphones, albeit not as elegantly given the significantly limited capabilites of the averate EFTpos terminal in comparison to the super computer capabilities of a new smartphone, nonetheless it worked and we rendered the lowly EFTpos terminal a new and powerful platform upon which almost unlimited apps could be run, and in turn changed the face of shopfront counters for ever.
No longer did a retail shop counter need to host one EFTpost terminal per merchant facility, now a single terminal could interface with many different merchant offerings.
And yet here I was traveling at great speed, across the China sea, between the awesome spectacle that is the island of Singapore, and the tranquility that is Bintan island, staring out the window pondering why on earth the likes of Fitbit, Suunto, Garmin, and so many others, esp. in the field of sports and personal monitoring, building closed platforms which would surely in time become outdated, and unable to upgrade through 3rd party apps offering additional features and capabilities.
It all seemed rather silly if not ridiculous to me, and so I flipped open my laptop and penned my thoughts into a quick article and zapped it off to WIRED magazine and my editor had it published in no time at all and before I knew it my China see pondering became a very public statement of my concerns around closed systems and in particular in the face of the impending explosion of the all new and exciting Internet of Things ( AKA IoT ).
I’d love to hear your own thoughts and any feedback you might have once you’ve read my article, as it’s an area I’m extremely passionate about and feel very strongly about, particularly in the whole open VS closed platforms or systems debate which has yet to truly take center stage, but it will in time, and hopefully sooner than later.
Here is the link to my article on WIRED mag, hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it: