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What does app overload mean for IoT?

By: Toby Ruckert

Sadly, for mobile app developers, the mobile app boom is coming to an end – unless you are Snapchat, Uber or just very, very lucky.

The app stores are packed full of apps with more new apps being published every minute. With this wide array of options, people are getting “apped out.” Angela Mattia, Associate Professor of Information Management at Jacksonville University says,

“Apps have been useful, but app fatigue is definitely an issue. There are now so many apps and people are so overloaded with them, that the ‘ah-ha’ moment and ‘I have to download this’ are not happening anymore.”

Despite people’s app fatigue, the IoT revolution has arrived. Device makers including Sony, LG, and others are creating apps [for their own products] which will enable people to ‘talk’ to their devices, but this just further adds to the problem of too many apps. What’s the likelihood of anyone having all of his/her electronic devices made by a single manufacturer? Without that, we are looking at multiple apps to communicate with all of our ‘things’ in a world where there is already a communications overload between people (e.g., WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, SMS, email, etc.). While many people have proposed a single app that can communicate with all devices, this is also unlikely to happen, as manufacturers cannot agree on a single standard or platform to make their devices operable with a universal app.

From app and communication overload – to device overload?

People’s communications overload will increase exponentially as people begin communicating not only with other people, but their things. What does this mean for consumers? In principle, with so many different platforms available, it’s easier than ever to communicate, but the reality is that it’s more difficult than ever to communicate effectively.

Investment in IoT is focused on creating new standards, protocols and security. But enabling things to easily ‘talk’ with people and creating the surrounding ecosystem, has not yet been a focus for any of the major players. Even if everything is one day connected, who and how will these things talk to? In a world where mobile phones and social media have enhanced and increased communication to the point where we can now comfortably communicate with large numbers of people personally and professionally, imagine adding your refrigerator, car, lights, TVs, garage doors and more to that list.

IoT makes app overload unsustainable!

To make people’s lives better and easier, we cannot rely on an app for the single most crucial role in IoT – especially if it adds to the existing communications overload.

Smartphones have succeeded because they have brought ease and convenience into consumers’ lives. The internet has succeeded because it provides immediate access to information from anywhere. Consumer products succeed when they make life easier, and against this high standard, the global consumer electronics industry holds its innovations and offerings. It is imperative that we think beyond apps for IoT, especially if we want Consumer IoT (CIoT) to take off.

When we communicate with a person through our smartphones, how do we do it? No matter which app we use, we send the message to one of our Contacts. Instead of looking for the answer in individual apps, or a universal app, we need to start using ‘Device Identity.’ Similar to computers’ MAC address, devices can be given unique identities and, more importantly, become contacts in our smartphones. This eliminates the problems – users can now choose the app they want to use to communicate with their devices. For people who use WhatsApp for example, they can send and receive WhatsApp messages to their devices. Traditional SMS users can text or even send voice commands. The options are unlimited, and eliminate the stress of which app to use, and the hassle of downloading and updating apps.

Communications is the heart of the IoT ecosystem. To achieve the true vision of IoT, we need to proactively address the biggest problem. If we are to effectively communicate with our devices, we must give them identities and recognize them as contacts instead of as individual apps. We do that, and it no longer matters which app a person uses to talk back and forth with their devices. The ultimate goal for CIoT is easy, unified and seamless communications, and the technology that lets us be there now.