14 hundred billion! The trouble With “Internet of Things” forecasts

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The Internet of Things is the next big thing. There’s been talk about it everywhere, from CES to every smaller technology trade show since CES. Even Apple, in its World Wide Development Conference keynote on Monday, got into the act, announcing an effort to create apps that will help iOS devices interface with appliances, garage doors and other household objects.

What are those Things, anyway?

What are those Things, anyway?

But important as the Internet of Things is now and will become in the near future, it’s going to get bigger down the road. A LOT bigger. Judging by some forecasts that have come out in recent weeks, it’s going to be in the billions. Or trillions. Or in one case, the thousand billions.

That’s right- a firm called MarketsandMarkets put out a forecast in mid-May, projecting that the Internet of Things market was valued at $1029.5 Billion– and will reach $1423.09 Billion by 2020. Those are shocking numbers- mostly because I didn’t realize “1029.5 billion” and “1423.09 billion” were, in fact, numbers at all. Shouldn’t that be $1.029 trillion?

This is not to be confused with another survey, released Tuesday, by IDC, which placed the worldwide value of the Internet of Things market at 2013 in $1.9 trillion, while expecting it will grow to $7.1 trillion in 2020. Meanwhile, Cisco CEO John Chambers said last May that he sees $14 trillion in profits from the Internet of Things in the next decade (projections are possibly off, as the chief of the Cisco division that deals with the IoT market recently stepped down. 

Here’s my problem with all of this: The Internet of Things, it appears, is in its absolute infancy as a technology. We have absolutely no idea what direction it’s going to go, whether it’s going to explode in popularity or end up one of those things that people look back on and laugh five years from now. We’re not even entirely clear at this point what is and is not the Internet of Things.

This technology projection business is dodgy enough as it is. But it’s especially uncertain when it comes to something like this- what’s the point of making predictions, seven years out, about something that’s just starting to exist today, and will exist in who-knows-what form tomorrow?  And it’s not like anyone’s going to go back years from now and check these projections against how they turned out.

What will the Internet of Things look like in 2020? I have no idea. But it probably won’t be “$1423.09 billion.”

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