IoT analogous to undifferentiated silicon stem cells

One could say that any term with the word “thing” in it is vague — by definition. So, one could also assume that the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) is also vague by definition. Why is it that the tech and investor communities cannot define IoT? Maybe it’s because the IoT is indefinable — by definition.


In order to try and define something, it helps to analyze is compsition. There appears to be an emerging consensus among engineers, industry analysts, authors, tech executives, and others about the fundamental pieces that will make up the IoT; namely, the following items:

  • Intelligence
  • Communication
  • Sensing
  • Security


Ultra-low power drain and miniaturization are other aspects. So, perhaps a definition of the IoT today could be the following: “Low power, ultra-small things inside other things that sense more things and communicate (securely) between these things and other things.”

Obviously, that’s not a meaningful definition, and rightfully so, because the problem of defining the IoT is that today the IoT is not any ‘thing.’ Certainly not anything specific. The IoT is a generality — by definition. The only true specifics are the component pieces as noted above, and once those components are assembled and programmed, they differentiate into real things.  

The point here is that the IoT is analogous to undifferentiated silicon stem cells, and these silicon stem cells can differentiate into a spectrum of specific, tangible, and identifiable…

Si stem cells

The differentiated devices would address a wide spectrum of specific, diverse solutions for use in an even wider range of equipment and applications. Most of the eventual applications and solutions have not even been dreamed up yet. This is a similar situation to world of cellphones back in 2006 before anyone outside a certain city in Silicon Valley knew that a new device would eventually turn everyone’s phone into a smart black rectangle for years. IoT potentially will have similar power to transform the world on a large scale as well — far beyond mobile communications. We just don’t know exactly how the silicon stem cells will differentiate yet… but we will.

Each of the main IoT functions — communications, control, sensing, and security — will surely undergo micro and macro integration. Micro integration is putting the component subsystem pieces together into low power, small, integrated physical platforms. Companies with microcontroller, sensor, communication, and security IP will be best positioned. (Do any come to mind?)

Macro integration refers to creation of ecosystems. It is easy to visualize what those will be, like a medical ecosystem with biometric sensors of various types connected to one’s body and the cloud through smartphones. Another could be an automotive ecosystem that senses the location, speed, and direction of your car and other cars near you and reports that data to each other (V2V communications). One more automotive ecosystem could sense and control the systems inside a car, such as entertainment, information, and mechanical. Yet another would be mobile ecosystems that include wearable products that sense biometrics, interface with automotive and home entertainment systems, control home automation, perform electronic transactions, and a plethora of other functions. It is easy to envision a world where mobile handsets, tablets, glasses, watches, and other things that people wear or carry automatically interact with sensors and screens sprinkled throughout the environment. Some refer to the sensors spread all around as “sensor dust.” Now you can see why.

The irony is that by the time that the component pieces of the silicon stem cells differentiate into specific things, they cease being just things. And that means that the IoT starts to fade away, product by product.

To put this in a Dr. Seuss sort of way, “When a thing starts becoming something, it starts stopping being a thing.”

Thing two

To be a leader in the post-IoT universe where things are not just things anymore, silicon providers must put all pieces in place and stimulate differentiation before the other guys do. It’s all about vision… but that is a topic for another day.

1 thought on “IoT analogous to undifferentiated silicon stem cells

  1. Pingback: Patentable parthenotes? Advocate general says yes – Lexology (registration) | Stem Cell Articles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s