Mergers and acquisitions indicate rapidly growing markets ahead. Google made a 3.2B$ acquisition of Nest in January. Now they just followed on with an acquisition of the Wi-Fi surveillance camera maker Dropcam for 555M$. Thermostats, smoke alarms and cameras – what is Googles plan? I think it is the homes and maybe offices they are after. There are many thermostats, smoke alarms and smart cameras available but Nest and Dropcam definitely comes with a cool design which should at least bring home healthier margins. People love nice products! Google has always been interested in Wi-Fi and it’s not a wild bet that there will be Wi-Fi in homes and offices. But this can’t be enough, they must be going after a service model with recurring revenues and collecting data from these devices to store, manage, analyze and sell. I have always claimed that “data is the gold of M2M” and I am confident that Google shares that view.
On top of all I believe their will have to be at least three separate wireless networks in homes: an unmanaged Wi-Fi with good performance but only best effort services, a really secure fully managed network for security related applications like door locks, surveillance and medical monitoring, and maybe even a third managed low bandwidth network for connecting things like fridges, coffee machines, etc. And even worse, we will see a mix of WAN and LAN technologies being used as well. I simply don’t see how one can deliver sensible services like surveillance or smoke detection over an unmanaged best effort Wi-Fi network. Successful companies with such services like Verisure today typically manage their own network.
So I am probably wrong. Goggle sees something I don’t. And they also understand the down-side of connected hardware since Nest just had to recall 440.000 smoke alarms due to a potential risk that they didn’t alarm immediately. But I am happy for their acquisitions since it stimulates entrepreneurs, customers and other companies who consider playing a sincere role in building the Internet of Everything.
In 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!
We connected businesses and people to the Internet to get mail and web. That was an easy sell! We got it and we discovered a lot of more important things to use the Internet for, increasing productivity and efficiency in organizations across the globe tremendously. Then, clever people started to utilize the data created to invent new applications and business models. Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook are just a couple of well-known examples. Since nobody had a clue about what the Internet would bring, ignorance was often an acceptable reason for failure at the time.
Now we are connecting also things to the Internet. Once again we focus on connectivity and operational values. Efficiency, Security, Sustainability and Convenience are the key values that M2M and the Internet of Things offer. Soon we will start to see clever people utilize the data created to invent new applications and business models. Well, some have already started. We have seen the movie before and the early warning systems works perfectly well this time why ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse.
It’s about time for decision makers to get on top of the M2M development and what it can do to their organization and industry. There are many ways to find information including articles, blogs, conferences and reports (I obviously recommend M2M Business Strategy & Planning which I am the proud author of) but the important thing is to get going, now.
A lot of people and animals are killed and injured in road traffic, road vehicles impact our environment significantly and road traffic is an important part of efficient transportation of people and goods. With the key promises of M2M being safety, sustainability and efficiency there is a perfect match between road traffic and M2M. A lot of research projects are on-going and part of the overall efforts towards the ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) vision.
If we can fly helicopters and aircrafts without pilots we must be able to modernize the road traffic to make it safer, more friendly to nature and more efficient. And even if humans cause many or maybe most of the problems on the road we still don’t feel comfortable putting ourselves in the hands of technology on the roads or in the air. But this will change. The technical solutions are ahead of what we are willing to accept but carefully managed real life trials together with clear and big benefits will slowly make us humans agree to start using new solutions.
There are many advanced research projects in road traffic continuously pushing the frontier forward. Earlier this summer Volvo successfully led a road train consisting of a Volvo XC60, a Volvo V60 and a Volvo S60 behind a truck on a 200 km journey through Spain as part of SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for Environment). The cars outfitted with cameras, radars and laser sensors were six meters apart and drove safely 85 km/h without any driver interference. The vehicles in the test have covered some 10.000 km on test circuits before the trial. Beyond improved safety and sustainability road trains would allow us drivers to put a professional driver in command for a while, take a bite, check our mail and take a nap before taking control of the car again. Sounds great!Another interesting project is Google Driverless Cars. In May 2012 the first license for a self-driven car was issued in Nevada: a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driver-less technology. The team just announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and are starting to test them with single drivers instead of in pairs.
ITS World Congress 2012 in Vienna October 22-26 is an interesting event for anyone interested in where road traffic is going. I’ll be there!
There are many reasons why M2M solutions will hit society, businesses and people with enormous power. Most of them relate to what happens when we connect things and put computing on top but one specific force is democratization of development tools – a similar brutal force that Basic and Hypercard gave to the PC industry, and that Apple provided the mobile industry with the App-concept. When thousands or millions of developers get going, innovation, specialization and competition happens big way.
Arduino is an open well documented physical platform developed 2005 in the Olivetti town Ivrea, Italy. It is a platform which collect, compute and communicate data which makes it the perfect prototyping tool for students, hobbyists and professional developers to realize their device ideas. Today the affordable and easy to use development kits can be bought at the Radioshacks of the world. Nobody knows how many Arduino developers there are but over 300.000 boards have been sold, the ratio of cloning is currently estimated to one per original board and Arduino skills are more and more often requested in CVs.
Arduino supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and there are a number of boards available. They are really affordable and pre-assembled Arduino modules cost less than $50. The community is rapidly growing and it’s easy to join by for example following the Arduino blog.
Among the companies using Arduino for their tools and services are Google and Telefonica. And the more I dig into the world of M2M the more spectacular examples of Arduino projects I find. Imagine this: a 14 year old boy in Chile developed an Arduino machine which post a Tweet when detecting an earthquake and now this alert is sent to some 30.000 followers on Twitter.
This is only the beginning. The opportunities are massive but some risks are also involved. Many companies will experience difficult competition from unexpected directions and some will leverage these forces to strengthen their position in the market. Governments will see completely new solutions to old and difficult problems. And consumers will be offered new innovative services, many of them replacing products we buy today.
I’m fortunate to work and live in the middle of this period of great change!