Companies who want to utilise a new technology have to work hard to get on top of it. First they need to understand how it works and what it could be used for in general and the emerging eco system. Then they need to understand how it fits into what they currently do and what could be achieved if they were able to utilise this new technology. From there on they need to make a business case quantifying what it takes and what it could give. Then comes changed processes and organisations, mitigation of risks, prototyping, testing, competitive analysis, marketing and sales strategies and plans and so on. It definitely takes a while.
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.
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:
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”.
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.
Gartner certainly got it right when they put IoT on the top of the hype curve. This many people have never been interested in what I am working with, not even when I worked with Wi-Fi. Last week for example, Stockholm Business Region, an agency promoting Stockholm, organized a breakfast meeting. But this one was about IoT and 150 people signed up within one hour! Since they had room for 80 persons in the venue they had to shut down the registration and find a bigger place. They ended up with the largest cinema in Stockholm, some 600 registered people, exhibitors in the entrance hall and a strong line-up of speakers.
Well, now when a lot of people got the first part right – it is time to look into IoT – let us start prototyping and testing in order to get the whole thing right.
IoT is hotter than ever! Gartner just placed IoT at Peak of Inflated Expectations in their Hype Curve and forecast 5-10 years until the Plateau of Productivity. But our baby is growing much faster than anything else we have seen before and I stick to my previous view that our baby will be grown up, but still young, 2016 after only three years as teenager. Good enough technology and infrastructure are in place since a couple of years and when organizations started to go from Powerpoint and thinking to trials and pilots we reached the teens. Four things have been missing to leave the teens behind: solid participation from the IT players, a hot M&A market, active and seriously engaged enterprises and efficient easy-to-use prototyping tools for users of IoT. All these things are starting to happen now which is one of the reasons why I dare to challenge Gartner on their projection. But there is another aspect of IoT which is underestimated: how the value is created.
Everyone promoting the story about billions of connected devices delivering data to impressive Big Data systems creating trillions of $ benefits clearly put IoT at the peak of inflated expectations. But all hard-working organizations and entrepreneurs working on industry or company specific IoT applications, well-integrated and cleverly implemented, are changing the world very fast. These efforts will start pay off soon putting competitors who haven’t started yet in a very difficult situation similar to when the frequent flyer program happened or Richard Fosbury jumped 2.24 at the Olympic Games in Maxico City 1968 using a “redicolous” new technique.
The only major difference between when we connected people and businesses to the Internet and when we connect things is that ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse this time. Beyond some clever start-ups the winners will be organizations who best understand when and how to improve their business using IoT solutions.
One of the most talked about areas for Internet of Things is Smart Cities. Cities themselves invest to become one. Most of the large players in IoT focus on Smart Cities. There are events, predictions, articles and show cases everywhere and each and everyone use their own definition of Smart Cities. A city is a very complex and dynamic location which from an ICT point of view could be described as a system of systems. It is obvious that sub-systems could be more efficient using IoT solutions and that the overall system of systems could be improved if the data collected was shared cleverly between the systems. No wonder Smart Cities is a perfect topic to focus on both for suppliers and municipalities.
This is why I am really impressed by Infracontrol, their pragmatic approach to Smart Cities and what they have been able to do. They started about 20 years ago to help cities connecting mainly traffic related things like tunnel alarms, ventilation systems and traffic lights. As they grew bigger in several cities and with new applications they developed Infracontrol Online™ 2003 to connect cities and citizens for better services. Today they have 56 Swedish municipalities using Infracontrol Online™ and their first ones in Portugal in place as well. Their customers report 60% better service quality, 30% savings in maintenance expenses, a lot of energy savings and higher citizen satisfaction. Sounds smart to me! Needless to say Infracontrol is a member of the Swedish SMSE-alliance!