Your Internet of Things Platform is Pointless

Here’s something I rant about that’s becoming A Thing: wireless hardware platforms. I’m talking about the Electric Imp, Pinocchio, and SparkCore, little Wi-Fi development units closely tied to a proprietary cloud system. A hardware designer develops a connected device around the platform, getting a microprocessor, cloud infrastructure, and chipset without having to develop from the ground up.

The whole concept sucks.

First elephant in the room: How incompetent are you as a design engineer if you need an all-in-one processor/RF daughterboard? TI’s new CC3000 chipset, the WiFi silicon that powers at least the SparkCore, is astoundingly sophisticated and abstracts out the most fiddly bits of wireless. Modules from Roving Networks, Bluegiga, TI, STM, etc etc offer massive ease and power. Why gamble on a prefab module that costs a fortune per, when you should already have the manpower to design your solution in house?

Second problem: Why do you need someone else’s cloud infrastructure? These are internet coffeepots and synchronizing scales. 99% of Internet of Things devices communicate entirely in plaintext, and the remaining 1% that need rich media should be apps instead of hardware in the first place. An entire paperback is 100kb tops. If your product explodes and sells an astounding 50,000 units in the first year, you ought to afford and maintain 5GB of EC2 bandwidth.

The third problem’s aimed at the investors and founders – where is the business model in a connected-device platform? Network economies? Nope, unless you manage to convince your development partners to make their products interact. “Being the next Arduino?” Cute, although Arduino doesn’t make a cent off derivatives. That burgeoning hardware startup scene? Bro, do you realize what you’re saying? You’re staking your entire professional success/reputation with LP’s on people who’ve never brought a hardware product to market! You should know better – you’ve just brought your own product to market!

Let’s not forget that the Internet of Things doesn’t run on Wi-Fi! It runs on Bluetooth! Connected devices (FitBit, Bluetooth headsets, Google Glass) are eating Internet of Things (WiThings, Philips’ goofy Smart Bulbs) for lunch. There already is a hardware platform that provides wireless Internet, rich computation, and a personal touch – a smartphone. And that doesn’t need your goofy cloud infrastructure.

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