Living in an IoT World With No Labels

By Joyce Deuley

James Brown’s song, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”, attributed much of modern conveniences to the labor of man, but admitted that it would be “nothing without a woman or a girl.” Well, according to a LinkedIn Pulse article, “Living in a Woman’s IoT World,” the situation has shifted—making women the center of the IoT—or has it really? The author discussed several connected devices that are specifically marketed to women, but does that mean the same thing as “Living in a Woman’s IoT World”? I don’t think so. The focus of the IoT has, and always will be, on solving problems—particularly, business problems.

While the consumer electronics market—specifically the wearables segment—is one that has seen tremendous growth within the last few years as the IoT has disrupted wearable technologies, it is only a portion of the IoT stack. The entire IoT ecosystem pervades numerous markets, including industrial manufacturing & automation, the automotive industry, remote control & monitoring, security, the retail & point of sale markets, and many others—it’s almost laughable to equate a handful of verticals as being the main driver of IoT innovation—and even more laughable to inject genderized labels into the mix.

At the heart of IoT is its nearly obsessive mission to improve efficiencies, clarify and improve processes by targeting areas of waste or identifying opportunities for growth. The value of the IoT doesn’t exist in bangles and rings that flash messages, but the overall impact of the information that is collected, which is then interpreted to make better business decisions. At best, the IoT is gender neutral—and can only be equated to “The Man” in a sense of its presence in infrastructure, particularly as smart cities and grids continue to be established across the globe. 

That isn’t to say that there isn’t room for more elegant wearable devices—a blend of aesthetics and technology, much like what a San Antonio-based company, WiseWear, produces, but that the glamour is a secondary, if not a tertiary, aspect to the whole product development process—and is not the company’s sole focus, as the company was founded to help combat negative effects of dehydration. These types of companies are proving that wearing gadgets don’t have to be cumbersome or ugly, but that there is a happy medium that elevates the technology to a visually appealing and multi-functional level for people with all manner of tastes.

But, if we need to inject statements of gender into the IoT ecosystem, let’s focus instead on how women are really driving progress in IoT—and not just as heavily researched objects of precision marketing. Women entrepreneurs and engineers who are seeking to solve problems, business, social or otherwise, by developing technologies (that may also look elegant and or fashionable) that harness the power of IoT. Also, let’s note the female developers out there working on new vending, manufacturing and monitoring solutions and applications; or those who produce lead generation materials, issue reports on current happenings, as well as those involved with marketing and product development strategies; or those in branding, sales, and the women who foster partnership ecosystems. For instance, Dallas’ Tech Wildcatters, is a tech accelerator, almost exclusively staffed by women, that has been making headway with hackathons and funding innovation within IoT and the tech community, and has been listed as number 10 of the Top Startup Incubators in the U.S. by Forbes in 2012 and TechCrunch ranked them at number 8 of the Top 15 Accelerators in 2014.

Until now, I hadn’t considered the IoT to be slanted one way or the other and I still don’t. More accurately, I view it as a network that connects many different types of businesses and relies on cutting-edge technologies and applications in order to improve business on a massive, global scale. We constantly refer to the industry as an ecosystem because it is so multi-layered and faceted; much of what occurs within IoT is interrelated with other industries. We can’t start isolating specific categories or demographics as the main driver for the IoT’s current direction—remember, we’re in this together.

Because of its ability to stretch across several industries and deeply alter them, the power of the IoT is seemingly limitless. We are now able to affect change through solutions that limit waste, increase productivity and efficiency, improve operations and communications on a scale that has never been seen before—all while reducing operational, product and maintenance costs, which also trickle down to the consumer level. As these technologies improve and business models change to reflect these changes, the IoT movement will continue to draw all types of consumers, engineers, legacy businesses, startups and more into the future—and its only label should be a neutral IoT.