Will Apple Build the OS for the Internet of Things?

Author: Jim Lundy
Date: October 9, 2014
Topics: Mobile, Internet of Things
Research Note Number: 2014-39

Issue: How is the Internet of Things evolving?

Summary: iOS 8 signals that Apple has the power to make a future version of iOS the leading operating system for the Internet of Things.

After a preview at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June 2014, Apple has released iOS 8, packed with more than the usual number of new capabilities. While many of these are the usual visual and operational improvements found in every iOS update, some appear to be deeper, anticipating a strategic transformation in the iOS ecosystem that is not yet mature. While Apple has not revealed an explicit strategy for the “Internet of Things” (IoT), the evolution of iOS suggests that the company plans to be a major IoT player, and that iOS is the way it intends to do so.

The Internet of Things

The phrase “Internet of Things” means that not only computer systems per se but also any digital device can have an Internet connection. This means virtually every new office or industrial machine, entertainment device, household appliance, home or building automation system and motor vehicle can be monitored and controlled via the Internet.

On the IoT, “anything that can be connected, will be connected” so this list will grow fast. As RFID technology matures and shrinks, for example, the UPC codes on everything you buy will evolve from printed symbols to active network nodes. Not only your refrigerator but also each item in it will have its own IP address.

Why would you want to talk to your milk bottles? Well, you don’t, but your refrigerator does. On the IoT, the “things” don’t just talk to you, they talk to each other as well, and the intelligence of each one is magnified by the other things it connects to.

For example, your refrigerator can already tell you when it needs to be cleaned or serviced; fill it with RFID-enabled products and it will tell you when you need eggs and when the milk is out of date. In this scenario, the refrigerator’s own software scans its contents, draws conclusions, and tells you the status of your groceries.

These capabilities are modular, portable and extensible, so your home automation system’s menu add-in can read inventory data from the refrigerator, freezer and “smart” pantry storage units and tell you how many people you can invite to dinner, or how many new items you need for a particular meal, then generate an order for your grocer to deliver.

Note: This is part of Aragon’s archived research. For up-to-date information, please visit the Mobile and IoT topic page.