Connected watches and glasses are not the next big thing

May 11, 2014

Sony-Smart-WatchM2M  or Internet of Things is not an industry. It’s more of a process describing that we are continuously connecting more things to the Internet. And it is a way to segment markets like how many dishwashers are connected and how many SIM cards are used in other things than phones and pads. Connecting things is not a big deal by itself but the data collected over the connection can make a huge difference when it shows up in systems for decision-making, process management, document management, monitoring and alarms, security and so on. It is when the data becomes information in relevant systems that the value appears. This is why I believe the IT industry must play the key role in pulling together the complete applications delivering the value thus enabling the investment decisions. A complete application always include the collection of data (sensors, networks, gateways, etc), management of data (i.e. making useful information for the application) and distribution (i.e. integration, app development, etc). Three distinct parts and at least three different industries.

This is well understood in the enterprise world which also explains why it takes some time to get going. But make no mistake – it will happen in all industries, it will bring massive effects and will redefine many businesses. GE is probably the best possible example of a large enterprise who identified this early on and got going with massive investments and rapid results. The future of the Internet of Everything is created by doers not politicians, thinkers, analysts, researchers, etc. The best approach is to keep eyes open for interesting examples from real life. Not only from your own industry. Identify and select problems and challenges relevant for this technology and start prototype and test. An agile approach with rapid prototyping and real-time testing with users is the way forward.

Up until now we have seen a lot of early successes by companies doing it all. There are companies like that in every single country. This is the obvious winning approach to overcome severe complexity in a new market. But this will change rapidly and new partnerships and value chains will be created to bring solutions to customers in different industries. This is how the IT industry solved issues before and this is why they are needed to participate in building the Internet of Everything. One area where we will see this change very fast is connected accessories like watches, wristbands, etc. A couple of years ago companies started to launched their wristbands and connected watches with an application or service attached. Good start to get to market but obviously not the right way moving forward. We want services where you can connect your devices of choice which allows you to also manage your data properly and distribute the information as you like.

Nobody expected the wristbands to become the new smart phone or pad, but sometimes I meet people who believe smart watches or Google Glasses is the next big thing. I think that is way off. These things are accessories and play in the same league as keyboards and mice. I think we will see the brands focus more on the services maybe with a branded device to show the way. The devices will be more standardized to fit all major services and we all will have to look for the next big thing somewhere else. I just received a 50$ quote for 500 units of a no-brand connected watch which looked quite nice and sophisticated and had decent features and specs. These accessories are about to become commodities and will soon show up in the weekly flow of deals in your inbasket. Data is the gold of M2M – that’s where the value is and that’s where the brands will want to be.


We are making things again!

April 14, 2014

A-Million-Times-Installation-by-humans-since-1982Companies have moved manufacturing of things to developing countries since many years. The reasons have primarily been competitiveness and profitability and the results of this are well-known and documented. Focus on software and the Internet made knowledge of making and marketing touchable products, things, scarce in countries like Sweden. It’s not that we are lacking ideas or can’t make a nice design but manufacturing, service and communication of products need to be closely integrated for superb results. Great ideas and designs are gradually taken down towards “normal” for every consultant, advisor, middle-man, controller and purchaser that gets involved. Huge cost-efficient factories only manufacture huge quantities and cost consciousness efficiently replace odd designs and components to those easier to manufacture and cheaper to buy. Most of this is obviously very good since we don’t want a world with only guordiously designed and incredibly expensive things! But take a look at things around you and you will see a lot of “global look and feel” in neutral colors and with rounded corners. Smartphones are really good examples – a huge, growing, rapidly changing and innovative market with youngsters showing the way should produce some sexy products but they all look more or less the same. 

But the pendulum is swinging back again! There are many reasons why we will start to see much more things being designed and built “at home” onwards. Let me give you a couple:

– democratization of development is enabled by cheap and easy to use components like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, iBeacons, Sensor tags, easy to use cost efficient tools like Evothings Studio and powerful smartphones and pads everywhere.
– methods and approaches like open source, crowd sourcing and crowd funding gives new opportunities for entrepreneurs
– 3D printing is happening right now and creates new ideas and ways of working
– Internet of Things makes a lot of people wanting to build their connected thing, at least the prototypes
– Technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy and Sigfox makes it possible to build tiny connected products with battery life of 4-5 years
– Human beings love smashing design
– It is often easier to get reasonable pay for things than software or services alone
– Creative processes require rapid response. Iterative prototyping och testing is key these days.
Nest is a good example of what is coming, Panono as well. Last week I participated in a great IoT Sweden meet-up with two fantastic presentations from Humans since 1982 and Teenage Engineering. David Cox walked us through how Humans since 1982 built their famous and fascinating clocks of clocks starting from animations and Jesper Kouthoofd guided us through yet another fantastic project: the development of the OP-1 synthesizer. Both speakers work in innovative and creative teams with all possible profiles and backgrounds, they obviously love what they do and they make wonder. I had a smile on my face the entire evening since these two cases made me understand that making things is back now.
Let me also take this opportunity to share a wonderful piece from the Q&A where someone asked David Cox about connectivity and David responded that “we design our clocks to last for 50 years”. Reality bites!

 


Inspiring examples: the Ball Camera

April 10, 2014
panono-panoramic-ball-camera-designboom04While brands like Kodak and Agfa rarely are mentioned together with photography any longer, people are taking and dealing with photos all the time and everywhere. This is yet another astonishing example of what happens when an industry moves from analog to digital. The famous “Kodak moment” belongs to history and mobile phones with powerful cameras, panoramic pictures, SnapChat and selfies are here. With 24 or 36 photos in an expensive roll with even more expensive development and printing needed, we paid a lot of attention to each and everyone of our photos. Today we take shots to remember the registration plate of the car we rented, what was written on the whiteboard and to digitalize a piece of paper and transfer it somewhere.
But today I met the founder of a start-up in Berlin who immediately blew my socks off. His company is called Panono and they have put 36 cameras in a small ball loaded with sensors and technology. With one quick toss of the Panono Ball Camera will capture everything in every direction into a high resolution 360° X 360° full- spherical panoramic image. What a wonderful idea! And even better, you will be part of the photo yourself! That takes selfies to a new level.
It goes without saying that the Panono Ball Camera is connected via mobile phones to the cloud.
For only 549€ this wonderful product is yours! Support truly innovative entrepreneurs! Go buy!

Inspiring example: Teddy the Guardian

January 31, 2014
teddy the guardianWhat a wonderful idea: a cute teddy bear full of sensors to track vital signs of the kid who is playing with it. Vulnerable babies will be measured and monitored without being bothered. And even better, the data collected will be more accurate than when they are bothered by a nurse or doctor. As well as taking measurements, nurses and parents can also communicate with their children remotely by playing songs and recording bedtime stories through the toy.Two master students from Zagreb, Croatia, Josipa Majic and Ana Burica, came up with the idea and their joint baby, Little Teddy the Guardian, is now for sale at 169 EUR. He keeps an eye on health parameters like heart rate, oxygen saturation, body temperature, and stress levels. The idea behind disguising medical tech in a lovable toy is to provide pediatricians as well as parents with more accurate, consistent and reliable data points that will give a meaningful and complete insight in the child’s health condition. Every time a child takes Teddy The Guardian by the hand or puts Teddy’s paw on his forehead sensors detect the values, capture them and transmit in real-time to a mobile app where data is analyzed, visualized, managed and downloaded by the medical staff and parents.

I can see a lot of applications where sensors embedded in something else could open new possibilities and opportunities.


What an exciting start of the M2M year 2014!

January 15, 2014

nest tstatIn my Christmas Internet  of Everything Chronicle I wrote that 2014 will be the year when IT players jump on the band wagon and when M&A activities will accelerate. With Google acquisition of Nest for $2,3B and PCT’s acquisition of Internet of things startup ThingWorx for $112M I have already delivered on my prediction. And it’s only January 15 today!

Since data is the gold of M2M Google is an obvious player in this field. And by buying Nest they made a clever inroad to people’s homes. The logic is that people buy “the thermostat that Jobs would have loved” regardless if they need it or not, Google start collect valuable data and use it together with all the other data they have. Then Google can leverage the Nest thermostat and other devices to also collect other type of data from the homes. Brilliant! But it is worthwhile to notice that some Nest loving consumers have already stated in public that Google is not welcome in their home and some have even smashed their Nest device. But I think this is a clever move which will put Google in an interesting position. And their acquisition will be an eye-opener to many other companies. You already know that I believe the only difference between when we connected people and business to the Internet and now when we connect things to the Internet is that ignorance will be no excuse this time.
What an exciting start of the Internet of Everything year 2014!

M2M enabling efficient marketing

December 11, 2013

Evian DropCompanies are investing a lot of money year after year to communicate with their customers and influence their perception of their company and brands. The budgets are there basically to sow for future sales and they remain on the same level year after year measured as a percentage of sales. The ever-increasing challenge is the growing number of channels to be used, and the constantly changing relative importance of them. But the best channel by all means has always been the product itself. Customers who buy it has it and use it often for a long time. People around them might see them using it. Satisfied users as well as dissatisfied users are happy to tell others about their experience.

All of this is well-known facts. But what is less known is that it has become realistically possible to establish a continuous dialogue with the products and also the users of them depending of what product it is, by using modern M2M or Internet of Things technology. Examples of products that often are connected already are: trucks, electrical meters, cars, alarms, vending machines and coffee machines. They are typically connected for operational benefits like being able to tell the truck driver to go to a service facility and depending on where he is propose which one, for electricity companies to measure and report consumption almost in real-time, for vending machines to understand when it’s time to go there to fill it up and better schedule the service route, for coffee machine rental companies to change recipes over the air and for alarm companies to get the alarms automatically. This is all fine and the normal first phase of an M2M investment. Operational value is easy to realize and make ROI investments on thus easier to get project approval and budgets for.

As we all know by now: data is the gold of M2M. And with these things connected we can gather and interpret the data from the connected things and start use it to create strategic value. Examples could be that the owner of the truck could measure how drivers actually drive, provide training to them and become a more sustainable company, the electricity company could offer customers better price off-peak hours, vending machines would get decision support from real data to know what products to have on weekends and warm days in different parts of the country and to use dynamic pricing, coffee machine companies could tune the choice of coffee for different seasons and learn customer’s coffee drinking habits and the alarm companies could add new adjacent services to their alarm infrastructure to become more competitive. All these things are examples of how the collected data could be used to add brand value, competitiveness, customer loyalty, innovation and attractiveness for employees, etc.

We are in the teen-age of M2M aka Internet of Things and many companies have started to connect their things, mainly for operational reasons. But it is still very rare to see companies using the data to create strategic value. Most consumer goods is not connected and if it is, there is no organized use of the data collected. Most professional equipment isn’t connected either and if it is, the data is rarely used in an organized fashion to create strategic value.

But this is about to change and I think we will see a lot of new examples in 2014. A number of new relevant ways of connecting things are available including the power-efficient and very small Bluetooth 4.0 chips with innovative solutions like iBeacon, networks optimized for connecting millions of autonomous things like Sigfox and a host of different ways to associate real life things with an avatar on the Internet like QR-codes, smart cameras, RFID and innovative solutions from companies like Evrythng.

This isn’t about technology. It is only when clever strategists, progressive marketing directors, creative advertising agencies, determined product managers and innovative business developers really understand what is practically and financially possible today that true innovation beyond operational value creation starts to happen. Interesting examples of creative customer communication through products could be the Evian Smart Drop, Volvo’s On Call app enabling their B2B+B2C model and Apple’s recent launch of an iBeacon based service in all 254 Apple Stores in the US.


Did NFC lose it now?

September 13, 2013
EstimoteI was chairing Short Range Wireless Forum in Amsterdam 2006 and NFC was the hot topic of the day since Nokia announced the first NFC phone the day before. But the combination of its limitations and the fact that only some vendors decided to implement NCF seriously made it yet another promising technology that never took off. These days Apple is introducing iPhone 5C / 5S and iOS7. This launch is as always followed and debated by a lot of people but still very few seem to have captured iBeacon. I believe that is yet a significant enabler by Apple which rapidly will become an important building block for Internet of Things applications and could make NFC redundant.Imagine entering into an indoor location like a University Campus. Your iPhone connects to iBeacon automatically over Bluetooth and depending on who you are it will provide you with directions where to go for the next class, it will take you to the canteen and take care of the payment leaving you with a receipt. One build wireless coverage in a location quite cheaply. Lets move to a department store, shopping mall or train station and the use cases are easy to see.A beacon, or mote, is like a lighthouse for radio transmission. Estimote is s startup providing beacons supporting iBeacon. The beacons are a couple of centimeters big and include an ARM processor, accelerometer, flash memory and Bluetooth connectivity. A beacon could cover up to 50 m radius and have battery life time of around 24 months. Estimotes developer kits give you three beacons for 99$ which gives us an idea of price points.iBeacon leverage Bluetooth 4.0 (also called Bluetooth Low Energy BLE or Bluetooth Smart) which was approved in July 2010 and is told to be a stable platform to develop solutions on. With over 19.000 companies as members in Bluetooth SIG and over 2.5 Billion products shipped Bluetooth is a well supported technology across industries. I believe developers will love this technology and application enabler why pick-up will happen quickly and massively. When we look back at these announcements a couple of years from now I think we will conclude that Bluetooth 4 was the real breakthrough for Bluetooth, iBeacon enabled a new generation of apps and NFC didn’t make it.Exciting times!


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