IEEE Internet of Things Survey of Engineers and Technologists Delivers a Surprising Result


The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE as it is far more commonly referred to, is not only the world's largest technical professional organization but it is in fact dedicated to "advancing technology for the benefit of humanity." It's certainly a lofty goal, and most recently the organization took it upon itself to begin scoping out how the Internet of Things - IoT - is perceived to be evolving, and how IoT might best be put to use for that benefit of humanity.

IoT includes machine to machine (M2M) interactions, wireless connectivity, and both business as well as consumer connected "things." And the Internet is the networking glue that ties it all together. To evaluate how technologists believe IoT should evolve and be used, the organization recently conducted an online IoT survey, with 1,291 engineers and technologists serving as the survey's panel. The survey was conducted from February 11 to February 17 2013.

Only 48 percent of the panelists are IEEE members, and it is necessary to note that an overwhelming 86 percent of the participants were male. That the survey is skewed so heavily towards males no doubt had a bearing on the overall results.

Among all survey participants, 70 percent of panelists define an IoT device (or "thing") as being either directly or indirectly connected to the Internet. Indirect here means, for example, a Pebble watch that is connected via Bluetooth to an iPhone, with the iPhone extending the connection to the Internet. Our own view of connected devices matches this. 30 percent of panelists believe that to be considered connected a device must be directly connected to the Internet.

Participants were also asked how many connected devices each of them currently owns and uses, not including desktops/laptops, tablets or cell phones. The distribution is as follows:

·         61 percent use 0 - 2 such devices

·         30 percent uses 3 - 5

·         5 percent use 6 – 9

·         4 percent use 10 or more

It may be difficult to imagine using 10 or more connected devices but we don't have further details on what these devices actually are - they may be sensors and most are likely indirectly connected. It is also not clear what the distribution for these devices is relative to the home and workplace - our guess is that those with more than two such devices are likely using them in a work related capacity.

IoT at Work or in the Home?

The survey specifically asked respondents to identify how they believe IoT will develop, expand, and be put to use in their everyday lives. The survey identified four specific ways to do so, and the results are as follows:

·         9 percent will use them to improve their health

·         12 percent believe that connected devices will help with improving their commute

·         14 percent the devices will be used to managing their homes

·         65 percent say that connected devices will improve their work productivity

The IEEE itself believes that the fact that 65 percent of respondents say they are most interested in using connected devices to improve their work productivity is surprising. The question appears to have given respondents only one answer they could choose from. The numbers may have ended up differently had users been allowed to select multiple responses. In any case, we do agree that when faced with having to make that choice it is surprising that the overwhelming majority chose work productivity. We do wonder what the result would have been if the gender spread had been much closer to 50-50.

It is entirely possible that the numbers here reflect the fact that most of us spend many more hours a week working than doing anything else, so that improving productivity at work appears to offer the most immediate and beneficial bang for the IoT buck. We may theorize that improving the quality of one's own personal life should be expected to be most important - but this particular survey makes it very clear that respondents are most interested in using connected devices in the office.

It is an interesting statistic that we believe requires further study to turn into a more specific and useable insight about the types of devices that will be most well-received in the future. It is also worth noting that connected devices do not necessarily mean wearable technology. We wonder if the percentages would have changed if the question had made a clearer distinction here. 

When asked to focus on a personal benefit - more specifically on health benefits, the numbers were far more positive regarding personal use. The IEEE itself says that its own experts predict that by 2020 one in 10 people will have a constant connection to a serious medical device or sensor (e.g. devices that measure heart rates, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and so on). Respondents were presented with this scenario and asked if they believe or feel that a connected medical or health device would improve your wellness, the responses were as follows:

·         72 percent say yes

·         9 percent say no

·         19 percent are uncertain

The surprising number here is that 19 percent are uncertain. There is essentially no doubt in our own mind that connected devices here will indeed improve wellness. It may however come down to an issue of security with personal data. When respondents were asked how comfortable they would feel using connected devices that monitor personal information such as location and/or health, the results are as follows:

·         15 percent would have no concerns using a connected device that constantly monitors personal information

·         68 percent would be moderately comfortable using a connected device that monitors personal information

·         17 percent would not use a connected device that monitors personal information

Feeling moderately comfortable, we believe, means that for the most part most people would go ahead and use the devices.

Finally, respondents were asked what they believe is the biggest challenge facing the widespread adaptation of using connected devices:

·         39 percent say security of data

·         46 percent say privacy concerns

·         15 percent say battery usage

Battery usage hardly seems a worthwhile response. Privacy and data security should indeed be of topmost concern, though we believe that for some of the more critical security and privacy environments - especially those in healthcare - this will likely be easy enough to ensure for users.

It would have been interesting to ask if big data, or more specifically the ability to actually make use of the massive amounts of data that will be generated, will lead to both greater collective and greater individual adaption. It is the data analysis and resulting business/medical intelligence that will in many cases lead to larger scale breakthroughs.

In any case it is clear that IoT is on a growth trajectory that will not be curtailed.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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