Missing from the Internet of Things Consortium: Captain America and Iron Man

By Richard Nieva , written on January 9, 2013

From The News Desk

The Internet of Things Consortium has gotten a considerable amount of attention during the early goings of CES. The tech and traditional press, like AllThingsDCNET and the Wall Street Journal ate up its launch announcement this week, and PandoDaily has also covered it. The San Francisco-based organization plans to meet periodically with the mission of "facilitating cooperation between hardware, software, and service providers," according to its website. It's unclear whether the organization will be more think tank or trade group, but it seems safe to say the group wants to lead the discussion on making connected devices – like a smart fridge or smart desk – more ubiquitous.

But it begs the question: Why this particular lineup of companies? I don't mean to impugn consortium members. They are fine choices – particularly Kickstarter darling Ouya, the hackable, open-source game console. Yve Behar, the acclaimed industrial designer and chief creative officer at Jawbone, designed the console and is just the type of design mind I’d want creating my Jetsons household. Logitech has also been a standout recently.  The company that in the 90s became synonymous with the computer mouse has just released a slick Jawbone Jambox competitor called Ultimate Ears, a speaker with Bluetooth connectivity. SmartThings, with a $3 million seed round, is doing an excellent job leading the charge in making household devices smarter. With its platform on over 60 million smart televisions, KontrolTV has also been impressive.

Still, there are glaring absentees, and if you’re going to create a league of companies to eventually create a living room of Internet superpowers, why not really go for an "Avengers" lineup? It will be a hard path getting these devices to market. Enlisting the best talent out there would be paramount.

For instance, where is Nest,  the smart thermostat maker run by Tony Fadell, the creator of the iPod? Although he obviously did not invent the concept of infusing the Web in everyday things, he and the Nest are widely credited with helping to popularize the practice in the mainstream. At the very least, the company has arguably done it better than all the others.

It would be one thing if Nest was invited and turned down the offer. But Nest cofounder Matt Rogers – through the company’s corporate communications – confirms Nest found out about the consortium when everyone else did, and was not asked to join. The company declined to say whether or not they would have liked to join. PandoDaily tried to contact consortium chairman Jason Johnson to find out how members were selected, but we haven't heard back yet.

Besides Nest, a relative newcomer but worthy addition would be the curiously named IFTTT (short for “If this, then that,” and pronounced “ift”). The company specializes in creating logical connections between apps, other apps, and the physical world. For example, one rule a user might use from the service is, "If it rains tomorrow, send me a text message." The company closed a $7 million Series A from Andreessen Horowitz last month.

Chief executive Linden Tibbets has taken a more proactive approach to developing the Internet of things: Instead of waiting for manufacturers who are probably in over their heads to dream up and map out the marriage between Web and mundane items, he thinks that relationship should be decided by the user. If they are the ones deciding these "if/then" rules, the connections will be more intuitive. While Tibbets expressed enthusiasm for the consortium, he declined to comment.

The aforementioned Jawbone is also MIA. The company is not the first that comes to mind when you think of the Internet of Things, per se, but it did carry the flag on wearable connected technology when it released the UP fitness band  – and became early martyrs for the cause when things didn’t go smoothly out of the gate. This probably makes its input even more valuable. There will be many missteps along the way to essentially remaking domestic life. It doesn’t hurt to have someone there who has already learned from mistakes regarding a product that’s already on the market.

Of course, we don’t know for sure why charter companies were chosen. PandoDaily reported earlier this week that Johnson, also the head of Founders Den, has something else up his sleeve of the connected device sort. And these companies might be aligned with his approach and viewpoint. Or, as is common and perfectly fair in business, he may just have prior connections to a few of the people at these companies.

But if the goal of this group is grand innovation on a nerdgasm scale – and maybe I’m placing too much importance on what could disappointingly turn out to be a mere CES attention grab – then perhaps some more firepower is to be expected. That’s not necessarily to be confused with star power, which someone like Fadell brings (along with a good dose of Apple arrogance, which may be one reason for the non-invite). But firepower as in having experience taking products to market with tons of users. Or in the case of IFTTT, tons of potential.

Those are the companies I want working together in those consortium meetings, plotting, collaborating and experimenting. Kind of like the Avengers. After all, what's more connected than the Iron Man suit?