There’s an occupational hazard of following tech trends. The danger is hearing so much about a new technology or acronym that you grow a little deaf.
What’s important for trend-trackers is to note when innovation begins shifting into application. Back in May, for instance, Wireside’s Founder Joya Subudhi wrote a blog about Google’s acquisition of NEST. Her post helped keep the Internet of Things (IoT) real by drawing attention to a familiar and everyday device, the thermostat.
Another story about Google’s smart contact lens project revived my own interest in another much-discussed category, wearable devices.
Did you see this?
What caught my eye – no pun intended – was news that the Swiss-based pharmaceutical Novartis wants to license Google’s technology in this area.
Maybe you saw it the first time – but one of the ideas is to outfit the contact lens with a sensor that can detect glucose levels via tears, giving diabetics a better way of monitoring their condition.
Time will tell whether this brilliant idea works out, but it got me to thinking about an obvious point: Innovation becomes real when it addresses actual problems, genuine pain points and concrete circumstances.
The smart and networked home
A preview for the Messe Berlin IFA 2014 event (Sept 5 – 10), which encompasses electronics and home appliances, offers another case in point. One of IFA’s pre-show releases, for instance, discusses trends among manufacturers of large and small domestic appliances.
Why the emphasis on small? Because it reflects a demographic fact: the rise of single-person households. The engineering challenge is to make appliances that serve that growing market segment just as sustainable and efficient as any others.
Like the smart contact lens project, those manufacturers are addressing real circumstances.And when technology begins working its way into daily lives, for instance when a grandfather is found adopting a smart-phone controllable thermostat to make his family’s vacation more comfortable, you know you’re at an inflection point. Then IoT becomes more than an abstraction.
Nothing against pure academic research or groundbreaking engineering, but that kind of applied innovation is always an easier story to tell.