Hype or not? Both!

October 16, 2014

Gartner_Hype_Cycle.svgIoT 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.

In most cases we build something and when it’s done we start harvest. And if customers like what we built it takes off. It might take a couple of years at least  to plan, develop and start produce, then we start market and after another year or so it might take off. That explains Gartner’s 5-10 years to Plateau of Productivity, if one ever gets there. But IoT applications deliver value when the information created is distributed to an IT system, shows up in an app, makes an alarm go off somewhere or change a road sign. Initially all IoT applications had to be created end to end – from sensor to terminal – which made them expensive to make and maintain. But now we can leverage existing networks, platforms, tools, terminals and applications making it much cheaper and quicker. So far we have seen this primarily in the consumer market where a connected sensor providing data to an app has been good enough. In enterprises data management and delivery is more complicated and changes in processes and business models takes time, but they are getting there. When they do, the operational value (cheaper, faster, etc) will be obvious and the strategic value (brand, innovation, employer attractiveness, etc) will be visible in the horizon. One only has to look at what GE is doing with Industrial Internet to understand that the impact will be massive.

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.


Like Lego for IoT

March 27, 2014

Evothings sign-up-for-betaLast night I participated in my first hackaton. It was arranged by Evothings who has developed an open source tool which includes libraries and API:s for connected devices like Arduino, Rasperry Pi, sensor tags, iBeacons and Philips LED-lamps and provides the ability of speedy development of IoT apps for IOS, Android and Windows Mobile. We were around 30 men (M2M unfortunately still means Men to Men) who got a 15 minute introduction, free pizza and a great experience. After two hours of playing with Evothings Studio, smartphones and some connected devices we had a “show-and-tell” session where the participants shared their experience and results.

Even though I’m quite well aware of what can be done in the field of IoT I was blown away to see how easy it was to put things together into a working prototype. Two young participants demonstrated how they controlled a small cannon from their smart phone, aiming and shooting. In two hours without having seen Evothings Studio before. My colleague came with an idea to extend their offering to retailers using iBeacons and I believe these two hours gave him what he needed to make the first prototype for a pilot test with a client.

I think this is very important to realize: not only is the Internet of Everything being built here and now with massive impact on industries, individuals and society. It takes minimal programming skills, little time and almost no money to develop a working prototype and see what happens. The democratization of IoT development tools together with modern phenomena like crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing and open API:s brings immense change. For sure.

EIT ICT Idea Challenge is a competition for start-ups in EU launched at CeBit some weeks ago. It includes eight different categories, each with 40K/25K/15K€ prices, and the IoT category is managed from Sweden. Before last night I thought that maybe 100 participants per category would be realistic. But after yesterdays experience I could easily see thousands of participants per category!

Inspiring example: The thermostat Jobs would have loved

February 13, 2013

nest tstatThe power of M2M is the ability to enable drastic changes in an industry. To do things differently. To change the game. Like in the early days of Internet we still focus on connecting things. That is good and makes us faster, cheaper, greener, etc. But it doesn’t change the game. It is when the technology is used to completely re-think and re-design something the power is released.

A wonderful example is thermostats. The “father of the iPod”, Tony Fadell, created the “learning thermostat” after having stumbled over expensive, dumb and ugly thermostats for the green house he was building. He created the gorgeously designed Nest which has been shipping for more than a year now. It is said to be compatible with 95% of the American and Canadian low voltage residential heating and cooling market by now. This little sexy device can remove some 20% of the heating and cooling energy bill and cost $250 US. Nest is now shipping 40-50K units per months and investors continue betting on Nest which now is said to be valued to $800 million US.

People normally don’t bother about thermostats but this easy to install and use, wonderfully designed and intelligent darling that saves people money has become a best-seller at Amazon, at Lowe’s and on Apple’s online store. It uses a number of sensors to understand the life-style of the household and adjusts heating and cooling in an optimal way. Beyond the information on the device itself it communicates with people’s smartphones and pads.

Innovative new approaches in established industries are always challenged by established players and Nest is already involved in legal battles. But I think we only have seen the beginning of Nest. Now they address consumers right away, seducing them with design and a good cause. But the device is Wi-Fi and ZigBee enabled thus ready for the Utilities and the Smart Grids. Is there a reason for a Utility to install another device in a home where a Nest already is in place?

Inspiring example: Tethercell lets you master things on AA-batteries

January 15, 2013
tethercellPeople are working hard to find clever ways to embed connectivity into things in a cheap, scalable and non-complicated fashion. Tethercell is an excellent example of that! By re-designing the content of the most used standard battery – AA – they make you able to master and control a whole lot of things from your iPhone. Parents with kids using noisy toys can secretly turn them off when they had too much for example. The product which looks like an AA battery includes advanced technology and an AAA-battery for power. It is remotely managed via Bluetooth 4.0 and a free IOS-app. Bluetooth 4.0 is the latest revision of the wireless protocol and it brings primarily much better power efficiency through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also referred to as Bluetooth Smart.
The product allows you to turn AA-powered devices on and off remotely, give alerts when power is low and it allows you to set simple timers and device schedules to save battery power.
Tethercell is yet another crowdfunded product using indiegogo.com and with about a month ago they have raised about 25% of the $59 000 US they aim for. $35 US gives you one battery and the app to control it and estimated landing is June 2013. 

Inspiring example: find what you are looking for

January 7, 2013
sticknfindSolving real problems is a good foundation for entrepreneurs. And finally finding what we are looking for is something we all like. StickNFind is a promising solution built on Bluetooth technology together with IOS and Android. You simply put your very small Bluetooth stickers on your keys, pets, children backpacks or whatever you want to keep an eye on. The receivers are similar in size as a quarter-dollar coin and quite thin. The replaceable battery lasts for about a year. When you use the StickNFind mobile app to find things you can even light the label up and make it vibrate to help localize the item. But you can only locate things about 30 meters away. One can also use StickNFind to tell when tagged things are coming within range like the bag at the airport convey belt or getting out of range like your turtle trying to escape. Two labels are sold for $35 US but you can have many more managed from one phone.
StickNFind Technologies use Indiegogo to crowd finance their product and with just a couple of days left they have raised almost ten times the $70.000 US they aimed at.

ITS 2.0

November 9, 2012

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) has been worked on for some twenty years. The idea to look at traffic and transportation using a holistic approach is great and rarely disputed. And the effects when ready would be fantastic! Efficiency, safety, sustainability and convenience, all the key promises of M2M, are there. But still the development is quite slow. Of course we need to remember that a lot of these issues are infrastructure related thus complex and time-consuming to develop. And a multimodal transportation approach require integrated organizations which is yet another complex thing to change. There are also many stakeholders and a lot of legislation involved.

But still I believe there are ways to drastically speed up the process: by leveraging the rapid development in technology in combination with innovation and pragmatism we could make things happen fast. Examples of key things to leverage are

  • the open data movement to allow entrepreneurs to drive innovation
  • the smartphones and pads to allow users of the transportation systems to access the information they need to make qualified decisions
  • crowd sourcing and other innovative ways to collect data
  • entrepreneurs to drive creativity, innovation and choice
A very good example of an ITS type application which is in place and leverage all of these is Waze. It is the world’s  fastest growing community-based traffic and navigation app and it is free. They claim 30 million users already and they even get help to edit the maps from their users. It started as an open-source mapping project in 2006 and Waze was founded 2008. The company is backed by serious investors and the business model is based on location-based advertising. The level of innovation is high and you can for example connect your Facebook account to see where your friends are.

Think about this: First came GPS devices integrated into cars for maybe 3-5K$, then came mobile GPS devices, often with better maps and features, for about 1/10 of the price and now this, for free. The power of what today’s technology and modern ways of working can do is immense. The services are continuously improved and by using one device for many things we even help save the planet.

I am focusing a lot on ITS and together with our partners and entrepreneurs we have numerous concepts and ideas (including dynamIQ parking™ which we launched at ITS World Congress) leveraging modern technology and ways of working to make drastic ITS progress. Let’s get going!

M2M for the rest of us?

May 18, 2012

M2M solutions using Mobile operator’s networks are growing quite aggressively. According to Berg Insight we have some 110 Million M2M SIM cards active today. But even if this impressive growth continues we will never reach the connected society within my life time unless generic, cost efficient, easy to install and use alternatives comes to market. It is not primarily a matter of communication technology – it is a matter of connectivity together with services enablement making it cost efficient to develop applications. Such solutions will use fixed or mobile wan connections to connect to the Internet.

At May 16 I stumbled over the first potential solution to the “M2M for the rest of us” solution – Electric Imp. They just left stealth mode introducing a line of Imp cards that can be installed on any electronic device to put it online and control it. The cards connect to the Internet and a cloud based service using Wi-Fi. In their own words: “take the best implementation of hardware, firmware and cloud service, build them into a single mass-produced product, and apply them to any device in the world”. The word Imp is borrowed from Arpanet’s Interface Message Processor. Developer preview Imp cards and developer kits will be available this summer and Imp cards will retail for $25 when available in the market. Electric Imp claim they have invented a solution for configuring Imp devices for Wi-Fi networks in seconds using iOS or Android smartphones.

I find this exciting since it sounds like Electric Imp has what it takes: a generic, cost efficient, easy to install and use solution for connecting things to the Internet. As an evangelist and investor in the early Wi-Fi days I am also exited to see bets on Wi-Fi in the M2M field.

Electric Imp has a great idea, strong founders, capable investors and address a massive market opportunity. Their success will be determined by how fast they will get hardware vendors to adopt their platform and put Imp-slots in their devices.

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