Decapitalizing the internet and its many things
Denver’s internet of things community ponders a change in IoT
When Internet became internet on June 1, as mandated by journalism’s style arbiter The Associated Press, the presses didn’t stop. Some news sites were grateful. Some mocked The AP. Others shrugged because they already used the lowercase “i.”
But a community much newer than the internet itself had a few wondering how this would change the Internet of Things, er,internet of things. The AP made itself clear on Twitter:
But in metro Denver, a hot spot for companies that put internet into ordinary objects, like door locks and sprinklers, there was confusion. Does the IoT abbreviation now become iot? There was mourning. There was disbelief: “Who capitalizes internet?”
No one has ever capitalized internet at Revolar.
“They wondered why anyone would do that and also don’t know about AP style of writing,” said Tia Mattson, a spokeswoman for Denver-based Revolar, which makes personal security wearables.
Not that AP asked anyone here, a community that became a hotbed for internet of things so early on that market researcher IoT Analytics last year declared Denver to be among the top 15 internet of things cities worldwide, just behind Berlin, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
In metro Denver, there are companies like Arrow Electronics, which just partnered with crowdfunding site Indiegogo to identify the next big internet-of-things thing. There’s the year-old Centennial-based organization TechrIoT, which has a nod to the technology in its moniker. And there’s the Boomtown accelerator in Boulder, which partnered with Comcast last year to create an IoT lab.
Plus there are numerous startups like Denver’s Rachio, which put internet in sprinkler systems; Boulder’s Chui, which put internet in a doorbell; and Revolar, which put internet in personal security buttons.
But perhaps the confusion is just a generation gap.
Andrea Perdomo, one of Revolar’s young founders, helped start the company in 2013, shortly out of college.
“Andrea said she does capitalize Internet of Things but because of how IoT is written. She feels new words and terms get capitalized to call them out until they are broadly accepted and not because of a standard writing style, like AP,” Mattson said.
GenXer John Cargile, marketing manager for LockState, which makes Wi-Fi-enabled door locks, is going full-on lowercase.
“Making the I and T lowercase in the internet of things means they realized that connected devices have taken over and are everywhere,” said Cargile. “All companies must take notice of this and develop an iot strategy to deliver their products and services. LockState moved from a traditional security product company to a connected device company. In our case it was from lock and key to IoT.”
Officially, AP’s standards editor Tom Kent, who is co-editor of the AP Stylebook, offered this: “Lowercase internet of things is consistent with our spelling of internet. Some may wish to put it in quote marks, or precede it with ‘so-called,’ which, of course, any publication can do.”
But what about the abbreviation IoT?
“I don’t think we’ve used the abbreviation,” said Paul Colford, AP’s director of media relations.
Another new company, Notion, which makes IoT sensors for homes, stands in the no-capital zone.
“I don’t think this change makes a difference,” said Henry Springer, 26, Notion’s marketing manager. “People usually refer to the internet of things as IoT anyways. Similar to television and TV.”
Boomtown’s Toby Krout, a GenXer, said the change makes sense.
“While the Internet of Things — or internet of things — is really a ‘thing,’ it will be most successful when we really stop thinking about a network at all. We’re moving to a series of devices that communicate appropriately to make our lives easier, safer, cheaper or even more fun. It’s like we really don’t think about the tech behind the internet any longer — it’s just there, and we use it,” Krout said. “Maybe The AP is just ahead of its time and is already living in that hyper-connected future.”
Arrow’s IoT marketing director, Zaneta Kelsey, said the company will go with AP’s style.
“Arrow continues to provide technology leadership and has an appreciation for standards and systems, like The AP style guide, that provide consistency,” Kelsey said.
However, she wondered, “It does beg the question of why ‘Wi-Fi’ is still capitalized in the latest AP style guide. Wi-Fi is one of the communication technology protocols used in connecting devices in the IoT. Like the internet of things, it is both a technology and proper noun, however, The AP style guide capitalizes it.”
Author Kevin Ashton, who is credited with coining the term internet of things in 1999 in a presentation to Proctor & Gamble, said it was a good way to get executive attention at the time. But he doesn’t feel much ownership to it.
“Internet of Things was capitalized because ‘Internet’ was, so I don’t much care, although I think it’s already pretty ungrammatical and may be even more confusing without the caps,” Ashton wrote in an e-mail. “That said, I am an author, and I have long ago learned to fear copy editors and just do what they tell me.”
For the record, The Denver Post is going with decapitalizing the three-word term but sticking with IoT.
TechrIoT, with its purposely grammatically incorrect name, launched a year ago and has become a major player in south Denver for internet of things projects. One of its XLR8 accelerator participants is Knocki, which is having a bang-up Kickstarter campaign for a device that turns tapping a table into a light switch or front-door monitor.
“I get the logic that the word internet is not a proper noun and should not be capitalized,” said Suzy Gutierrez, TechrIoT’s co-founder and managing director.
Still, she has mixed feelings.
Going no-caps is “an indicator that millennials are influencing generational changes in thinking,” Guiterrez said. “Since millennials are considered to be digital natives, they have never considered the novelty of the internet.
“However, as a GenXer, it will take me some effort to make the switch from IoT to iot,” she said. “I like the way IoT looks in writing. To me, IoT is a hip acronym that symbolizes the next revolution in technology. I am going to miss it.”