March 27, 2017
It’s ten years since iPhone came to market and created a new world of smartphones and apps. It feels like they have been and will be here forever. Given the pace of tech development it is time for the next big thing but it is hard to see any candidates. Glasses and wristbands are accessories and not even close. VR and AR are interesting but probably not what we are looking for. When we look back at 2017 we will see that the next big thing was internet again, this time with things added to it!
When internet surfaced last time we had little or no idea of the impact it would make to countries, businesses and people around the world. We went through the three phases: connectivity, operational value and strategic value
in maybe ten years and the impact has been in the ball park of electricity. Now when we are adding things to the people and organisations already at internet we will go through exactly the same thing again. Connectivity (remember the 50 billion devices) is soon behind us now when we finally get the missing low power infrastructure for IoT, LPWAN
. Since hardware is more difficult to connect than people the first phase will take quite a lot of time, but the two following ones – operational and strategic value – will be much faster since everything needed already is available on internet. We already see companies leveraging things connected to internet today – look at the four nominees to the IoT Enterprise of the Year award in Sweden: Verisure, Volvo Cars, Husqvarna and Assa Abloy
– and this is about to explode across industries and countries. The core deliverables from things connected to internet are safety, sustainability and efficiency i.e. what you will find in most priority lists of today.
In essence: if you want to understand how IoT will develop, try remember how internet happened last time. If you want to understand the impact of IoT, take a sober look at what internet has done to you, your industry, your society and the world. If you want to keep your job and save your company, get going. Internet is the next big thing, again, and we are already in the middle of the revolution. This time ignorance will be no acceptable excuse.
November 13, 2016
All IoT solutions span at least three industries – collection of data (sensors, gateways, datacom, telecom, etc), managing data (cleaning, matching, analysing, combining, etc), distributing information (IoT value is created when a piece of wanted data is delivered to the right place at the right time, i.e. apps, signs, ERP systems, warning lamps, etc). In the early days of IoT clever people were able to put together all these things to solve a specific problem for a customer or even a number of customers in similar situation. The problem is that any single piece in an IoT solution is quite complicated, so in order to make a really good solution all bits and pieces need to be top-notch. If you need a CO2 sensor you will have to turn to someone who offers the right functionality, quality and price for you solution, at any given time. If you need to have the wanted information from your solution delivered in an app, you need to provide your customer with a top notch app with great UX at any given time. If not your entire solution will look bad in the eyes of the users, even if it’s actually the best one in the market.
The IoT market develops very fast and complete solutions from one vendor, often with a couple of years success behind, are now meeting stiff competition from solutions created by several companies in tight collaboration. These ecosystems are collaborating to provide the best possible solution to industries, applications and customer segments and like if it wasn’t bad enough for the “early stars”, these ecosystems are adapting much faster to customer needs, technical development, legal requirements, policies and trends due to their combined resource.
I don’t believe single companies, industry groups, alliances or standard bodies will determine how IoT will be deployed in different markets or applications. I believe successful ecosystems will. Ecosystems is simply the new how in IoT.
August 17, 2016
Sensus is an absolutely gorgeous electric guitar connected to the Internet, loaded with sensors and with features like any synthesiser. It’s developed by Mind Music Labs, a startup at THINGS in Stockholm founded by Michele Benincaso, an Italian “Maestro” from Cremona’s Antonio Stradivari Luthiery’ School. After having worked in the guitar world for more than ten years producing guitars for world-famous guitar players, Michele understood that while the world was changing at a fast pace and musicians’ needs were constantly evolving, guitars and most music instruments were stuck in the ’60s – with artists increasingly resorting to electronic equipment and computers to fill this gap. Michele and his dream-team of experts have developed Sensus and a couple of months ago they were ready to show the world. They did a YouTube video that immediately went viral and ever since they have been winning piles of awards. In June at Midem Cannes they were selected the most promising music startup of 2016 among more than 150 submissions representing 31 countries from around the world!
Sensus is a very inspiring example by itself but also underlines that it takes deep industry knowledge and a wide range of hardware, software and communication expertise to develop a great IoT solution. Avanti!
January 11, 2016
The need for a narrowband wide area network devoted to IoT was obvious but it is only recently it has become obvious for many. We need them to connect cats, bikes, fire detectors and things like that. We only need to send heart beats, position and events but the devices often need to be tiny, with low cost and most importantly very very power efficient. The connectivity to connect a pet can’t be more than maybe 5-10$/year. Many have developed such network solutions but until Sigfox came up with an operator model and a global ambition, nothings was there to attract developers.
Now these networks have got a category name: LPWAN
– Low Power Wide Area Networks – and numerous articles
and reports explain, compare and calculate business opportunities. As always within IoT the numbers are huge. While Sigfox
is a proprietary network with base stations from Sigfox but modules and tools from a range of vendors, LoRa
is a more orchestrated approach. A couple of mobile operators including Orange, Bouygue and KPN have declared publicly that they plan to build LoRa networks and I know several others looking into LoRa and other LPWAN network options. Sigfox has networks deployed in several countries including France, Holland, Spain and UK.
Also 3GPP have been working hard to come up with a standard for narrow band IoT data – NB IoT – which is expected to be published as part of 3GPP’s Release 13 in early 2016. The first networks are supposed to be deployed late 2016. Orange recently said that they will trial NB IoT technology alongside their launch preparation of a LoRa network. Also 5G seems to include a LPWAN solution, LTE-M.
LPWAN has quite rapidly gone from “not needed” to an obvious part of the communication mix for IoT. Now Telefonica and SK have invested in Sigfox, others look into deploying Sigfox, LoRa and the 3GPP NB IoT. This reminds me of Wi-Fi which was “not needed now when we get 3G” and now Wireless Broadband Alliance, started some 10 years ago by a couple of mobile operators, gather some 600 delegates for their Wi-Fi Global Congress events.
The development of several LPWAN solutions is a sign of a grown up IoT industry. But let’s remember that building the infrastructure is only the beginning – getting it used big way is the real challenge. LPWAN is a low cost high volume business and the winning technology will be the one who gets the developers excited.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the different camps will address the IoT developers and will do my best to ensure that the Swedish IoT developers will get well served and successful also in the LPWAN space. LPWAN will be a focus area 2016 both for my alliance of 48 Swedish IoT start-ups – SMSE – and our hardware hub in Stockholm – THINGS.
November 5, 2015
Swedish real estate giant Riksbyggen develops and maintains buildings across the country since 75 years. Some 350.000 people live in buildings managed by Riksbyggen. Maintenance of buildings is expensive, dangerous and surrounded by a lot of regulations and policies. Just imagine climbing snow-covered rooftops in the cold and dark Swedish winter. Riksbyggen have an innovative and business focused CIO who started study the development of drones for building maintenance 2008 to try save money, time, lives and the planet. Early this year they tried the DJI Phantom med 4K-camera and the concept worked. An inspection takes some 10 minutes instead of two hours and the result is digitally documented in 4K, ready to show the customer and to be saved for planning of future maintenance etc. Just to check the snow indicators on the roofs takes a couple of minutes for a whole block instead of having to climb up on each roof to take a look. With an IR camera mounted on the drone additional checks can be done. Today Riksbyggen has 9 trained operators and are currently running a pilot with a couple of customers. Imagine how many similar applications there are for drones to revolutionise!
September 10, 2015
After the Billions-of-devices-hype came even bigger numbers on the Big Data opportunity. It’s obviously so that being able to gather and analyse huge amount of data from different sources gives interesting opportunities for both good and bad guys. And the big number game always works: if airlines save 1% cost it’s a huge amount of money. Or if rescue shows up at car accidents a minute earlier on average we save many lives and loads of pain and money. If people on the planet save a minute a day on their way to work we would create mountains of time to be used for something fantastic. We have left the Billions and talk Trillions now.
Let’s come back to the view that enormous shared data power in the cloud is the only way forward. We’ve heard it before. It all started with IBM’s mighty mainframes in the core and 3270 terminals in the edge. Computing was only about central expensive machines until Apple turned it all upside down with the first personal computer. And ever since have IT managers and others had to struggle with the balance between edge and core. At 3Com we invented Ethernet and argued power to the edge. Why send data outside the office if it’s internal and only to be shared between people in the office? It’s at least not safer and what if connection to the center is lost? It has been going on like this, back and forth, Thin Clients with all power in the core was really the future for a while and most recently employees started bring their own, rarely thin, devices to work.
There is definitely a lot of economies of scale to run things from the center. But innovation often comes from the edge. That’s why we have regional and local governments for example. Culture, climate, economy, religion, desire and everything else differs from place to place, company to company, human to human.
Coming back to Big Data and IoT. First of all, IoT is most often small data, and little or no velocity, variation and all the other V’s that Big Data is supposed to deal with. Secondly, in many applications we need to make really quick decisions down there at the floor, in the edge. A home care solution which tries to identify when a person living there is about to get stroke, requires a thorough understanding of that individual, constant monitoring and learning and very rapid and correct alarms when something is about to go wrong. A retailer who need to put the new pasta somewhere need to make that decision now. With real-time support for that decision it will be a better one than without.
I believe a new wave of distributed AI applications within self-learning systems will be a really important part of the Internet of Everything. Keep an eye at companies like our THINGS member Aifloo and Imagimob, both developing AI capable edge devices for industrial, healthcare, retail and energy markets. These clever devices with their own sensors built-in, might even make it possible to avoid further integration into larger equipment to provide applications requested.
June 1, 2015
Dear readers, I have to apologise for not having posted more than a couple of posts this year. The reason is that I have worked really hard together with Linda, Carolina and Pär to build THINGS™, our new 2000 m2 co-working space for start-ups with hardware as part of their solutions, at KTH Campus downtown Stockholm. We started last spring and opened our house officially March 26 with a great party with over 300 people. It’s been a fantastic journey and we already have 21 start-ups in our house, and five industry partners: Assa Abloy, ABB, Husqvarna, NCC and SP.
This is a fantastic project, trying to exploit the perfect storm created when the two mega-trends IoT and Makers Movement meet. The best way of following us is by signing up to THINGS NEWS, visiting our web thingstockholm.com from time to time and following us on twitter @sthlmthings.
I remain devoted to IoT and my alliance for Swedish IoT start-ups, SMSE, now has 41 members and 13 partners. I’m now working on our annual IoE For Real™ event in Stockholm June 17 and the International IoT Get Together at THINGS the night before (sign up for free using code “connectcompute”).
From now on I will start focusing on my blog again. Nobody knows how IoT will develop and I believe it is really important with original views, thoughts and opinions from people spending their lives working with IoT. Today, on top of the Gartner hype curve, everybody want to be part of IoT and there are 13 announcements and competitions on a dozen right now. We need to put these right and put them into context. Most recently Google announced Brillo and Weave. I’m not very impressed and I will come back to that very soon in my blog.
March 18, 2015
Adding things to the Internet will make extraordinary impact on industries, businesses, nations and people’s lives. And I hope it will make us take better care of our globe too. The three major deliverables of IoT – safety, sustainability and efficiency – together with convenience will do the trick. In essence IoT fuels digitization of processes and allows us to base decision-making on better, often real-time, data. Applications like preventive maintenance and scheduled repairs will make us tremendously more efficient to name one example. And one day “if it aint broken don’t fix it” might be hard to understand. The Internet of Everything is rapidly coming together and I believe we’re leaving the teens already 2016.
Another rapidly developing major trend is the Makers Movement. Equipment and tools have become much easier to use and really affordable. And new types of equipment like 3D printers together with a host of new materials and techniques complete the opportunity to democratise manufacturing. In other words a couple of people could easily get together and buy what it takes to make at least prototypes of their ideas. And that is exactly what has happened – there are makers everywhere, in more or less organised and specialised organisations, sharing tools, skills and facilities, training each other and building new micro startups en masse. FabLabs
and Makerspaces are popping up everywhere and 3D printing and scanning by itself promise massive changes on how we design and produce things, e-business, healthcare and so on.
It is hard to predict what will happen when these two mega trends meet but let me share a couple of observations to get going:
– It’s more difficult and resource consuming to design, manufacture, market and service hardware than just software
– Hardware requires more money and a wide range of expertise
– Working with hardware requires more physical interaction and relevant facilities
– Early stage investors are often reluctant to invest in hardware today
– Crowdfunding services like Kickstarter
are already loaded with hardware, often with great innovative design compared to mainstream products
– Apple combines gorgeous things with ease of use and Internet bringing continuous innovation and record profits
I find the meeting of these two mega-trends very interesting and have worked for a year with some friends trying to figure out how to turn this into serious solutions and big business. One important conclusion is that successfully making solutions with things included require great engineers, great designers, great entrepreneurs and internationally successful enterprises with things part of their solutions to collaborate with. That makes it a perfect fit for Sweden and I will do my best to help the Swedish hw start-up community become successful. We have started to use #sthlmthings for our community and I would welcome other communities to gather around similar hash tags to make it easier to follow and interact in and between “things communities”.
February 11, 2015
I’ve been talking for years about the need of a network to connect “cats, bikes and smoke detectors” in order to reach the billions of connected devices people talk about. The only thing it needs to provide is heart beats, position and events, thus very very little data. The requirements are very cheap connectivity, very small and light hardware and tiny power consumption so batteries can last maybe 4-5 years. This infrastructure will complement the other ones we have and it will allow me to connect my dog for maybe 10€ a year without any over-night charging of batteries.
I have been in favour of Sigfox approach to this issue for years why todays announcement that Telefonica, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Air Liquide, GDF Suez, Eutelsat and U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management together with existing investors Elaia Partners, iXO PE, Partech Ventures and Idinvest invested 102 M€ in Sigfox came as really good news.
This gives the muscles for Ludovic and his team at Sigfox
to really start conquer the world. And this is something many of my 36 members in the Swedish IoT Alliance SMSE
have been waiting for.
January 7, 2015
Smart Homes is a much talked about opportunity for IoT. It has what it takes to attract a lot of companies and people including those owning, managing, visiting and living or working in them. And beyond that also companies selling products and services for them. And the concept of smart homes is fluffy enough to include the three big deliverables of IoT: sustainability, safety and efficiency, as well as things like economy, comfort, fashion and entertainment.
We all know that a specific solution for every single task or device isn’t good enough. So the approach to make a remote controller for the toaster, one for the fridge and one for the kitchen fan (I actually saw a dedicated remote controller for the fan in Italy and I’m still thinking about the use-case) will not make the job. And we also know that “this is THE network for the SmartHome” approach isn’t taking us there since we already have a lot of different infrastructure and networks in houses and we have a number of different more or less technical requirements on them.
The combination of these two insights makes it hard to come up with Smart Home solutions that will capture large parts of the market, especially if we leave aside new buildings where one can start from scratch. I suggest something like a cluster approach to the challenge where we try to combine infrastructure, applications and tools to provide attractive solutions for larger parts of the Smart Home challenges. Let me give you a couple of examples what that could look like:
- The ultimate Media solution which uses IP networks to stream content easily and flexibly to and from devices and services (bring the best from Sonos, AirPlay, Spotify, Netflix, etc). Once installed you could add, change and remove hardware and software components easily.
- A really secure managed infrastructure with a tough SLA for applications and services that require an infrastructure to really trust. Applications could be alarms, door locking systems, smoke detectors and other things you are ready to pay extra for if the service is guaranteed.
- A kitchen app that interact with all your favourite Internet services for cooking and shopping, your kitchen appliances regardless of brand (or not?) and maybe energy monitoring and advice relating to the kitchen.
I have concluded that we will have at least three networks in our homes: an unmanaged Wi-Fi network which is already there, a managed very secure network with top-notch quality of service and a more generic but still managed network for things like home appliances. WAN solutions will generally speaking be too expensive and will just complement the LANs the way they always had. But some devices connected directly to a mobile network and/or narrow band WAN infrastructure like Sigfox will most certainly be part of the solutions.
One of the most interesting projects I’m currently involved in is a joint effort between a number of Swedish real estate owners and members of our alliance for Swedish IoT entrepreneurs (SMSE) with real estate focus. The request from the real estate owners was “a secure, robust and open service platform for multi-dwelling buildings” which they can install now, keep for years and have app developers to start bringing innovation to tenants, owners and maintenance staff.
We’re working with several technologies and one of the most interesting one is the well established Internet chat protocol XMPP since it provides a promising open architecture to deal with data integrity and privacy issues. We have already pulled together the bits and pieces required to run our first hackathon creating mobile apps on building automation systems talking XMPP. I’m looking forward to the next few months of this project which hopefully include a major hackathon demonstrating the power of this approach.