Hype about M2M technologies is at an all-time high. This is partly due to the number of such innovations on display at last month’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show); companies such as Cisco, www.cisco.com, declaring that the Internet of Things market would surpass $19 trillion throughout the next few years, and Google’s, www.google.com, recent acquisition of Nest in a move that will create a Google-powered Internet of Things. Imaginations are running rampant with ideas about what the future looks like in terms of connected devices and the resulting Internet of Things. We’re imagining smart houses, smart cars, and even smarter people, all thanks to more connected devices enabling more connected services.

However, is “Internet of Things” really an accurate way to describe what is going on? While “thing” initially referred to the device that was connected, able to sense its own environment and report on it, that “thing” has evolved to do so much more—including an ability to perform actions. No longer does the “thing” just sense its environment and alert you when you leave the stove on, but it can now alert that the stove was left on, turn it off for you, and then report that it had taken care of this. Instead of referring to this concept as the Internet of Things, it is time to more accurately describe it as the Internet of Agents, with agents encompassing all connected things, systems, and people who can provide information to other things, systems, and people, and initiate actions. In other words, agents provide services, including to other agents, and they are more than just devices. Agents will be the foundation for creating the XaaS (everything-as-a-service) future.

As we rely more heavily on the Internet of Agents, the focus shifts from products to the services enabled by this concept. Products—the devices, servers, operating systems, and more—now are tools that are enabling other services. For example, these days, we more frequently stream music and movies as services directly from our provider, an online service, or a mobile app, rather than purchase the product that previously enabled the same service—a CD or DVD. So we see these XaaS solutions are becoming another agent in the Internet of Agents, providing even further services to meet consumer needs.

Below are five instances of the Internet of Things evolving into the Internet of Agents:

The Internet of Things tells you where your bus is and how long until it arrives at your stop. The Internet of Agents does that in addition to letting you purchase your bus fare as you walk to the stop.

The Internet of Things lets you know which appliance store has the refrigerator you were looking for. The Internet of Agents lets you scan a barcode for that refrigerator to see what other retailer carries that item, read reviews, watch product demos, find a lower price, and order it for delivery to your doorstep, in addition to tracking that package as it is en route.

The Internet of Things enables you to monitor your home security system from your mobile phone and alert you and your security agency if carbon monoxide levels were high or there was a break-in. The Internet of Agents would do this in addition to enabling you to activate your alarm system through your smartphone, even miles away from home.

The Internet of Things helps you and law enforcement officials track down your stolen vehicle. The Internet of Agents also lets you unlock your car when you lock your keys in the trunk.

The Internet of Things means your refrigerator knows when you need to buy more milk because it can sense that it has spoiled or that you never replaced the empty carton. The Internet of Agents means your refrigerator knows this, and can place your grocery order for a Peapod delivery.

These are just several examples that are already happening now, but as more agents develop and connect with other agents, even more services will be created—ones that we cannot even begin to fathom yet. The Internet of Agents will mean more services and more connectedness, which in turn leads to more complexity, more bundling, and more options. The challenge that arises then will be: how do the businesses that are providing these services track, manage, and monetize everything? With more agents and services come more players in the already complex value chain. How then will businesses ensure each party is adequately and accurately compensated? The world, which has previously been dominated by products, is moving toward increasingly being dominated by services.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Esmeralda Swartz has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. As chief marketing officer of MetraTech Corp., (www.metratech.com) Swartz is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development, and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, she was cofounder and vice president of marketing and business development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously cofounder and senior vice president of marketing and business development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of OSS software now part of Extreme Networks. At Avici Systems, Swartz was vice president of marketing for the networking pioneer from the startup stage through its successful IPO. Early in her career, she was a director at IDC, where she led the network consulting practice and worked with startup and leading software and hardware companies, and Wall Street clients on product and market strategies.