October 16, 2014
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.
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.
February 13, 2013
The 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?
January 15, 2013
People 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.
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!
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.
April 24, 2012
Services like Skype and Spotify utilizing the Internet just as a connection are often referred to as over the top services or OTT. Consumers normally love them but operators typically have a more complex view of them: great since they create demand for their IP services but not that great if they replace services the operators charge for. Most M2M applications are really tiny in terms of traffic generation which explains why over 95% of the mobile ones still use 2G. For mobile operators M2M is more of a subscription business than a data business today. It is hard to estimate how M2M solutions will impact data volumes since it’s a combination of actual applications and volumes of connected devices.
I always claim that the M2M consumer market is a great place to look for innovation and interesting examples to bring to the business market. One example is what could be referred to as M2M OTT, where vendors of connectable devices use people’s ordinary mobile devices to connect to the Internet and an application in the cloud or elsewhere. This can make the device cheaper and smaller to manufacture and use. By using for example Bluetooth to connect to the phone and leverage the existing subscription and data plan. Data from the device can be made available to an application somewhere typically adding no cost to the user. And no new revenues but more traffic to the operator. There are many examples of this in the consumer market today and the personal health and fitness segment is one worth looking at. A mix of books, trends, research, services and products has created a rapidly growing movement and industry. Dr David B. Agus’ bestseller “the end of Illness” and the sleep monitor Zeo are good examples. The Zeo is a complete system taking sleep analysis out from the labs. By connecting a Zeo headband to an iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth, the sleep data collected is made available to an app for reporting. But the sleep history data is also made available to the user’s account at mysleep.myzeo.com where analysis, backup and other services are available.
Using the mobile devices for local collection and presentation of data and access, over the top, to an application and services in the cloud is a model we can use in other situations. There are obviously downsides having to deal with Bluetooth, phones running out of power or stolen etc. But for some applications this is a great model maybe also in the business environment. There is simply not one or two models for M2M but many, and it is important to carefully look at all possible approaches available when implementing an M2M project.
January 3, 2012
One way of describing M2M solutions is in the three steps: collect data, process data, use data. These three steps need to have standardized interfaces in order to avoid re-inventing the wheel every time we need something from the M2M solution in place. This is true when data is collected, processed and used internally but even more so when some or all data should be made available to someone else. M2M solutions are most often deployed internally with a business case developed to support the investment. They are typically there to respond to very specific internal challenges or opportunities why it’s not fully natural to think about sharing data externally when the systems are designed. However I believe we will see increasing business opportunities for owners of data collected in M2M (and other) solutions. I see at least three types of opportunities:
– making internal data available to selected or even all developers might boost perceived service levels for the company. A good example is tåg.info in Sweden where information about trains and stations are made easily available for developers who have developed popular apps like Train Info Sweden and Tågtavlan. I am convinced these apps have increased the overall perceived services by the train operators. Another great example is the “City of Stockholm Open API” where a lot of information is made available to developers and where I expect to see more and more information from M2M solutions in the city.
– making internal data available on commercial terms will probably be increasingly interesting. The more services made available, especially for smart phones and pads, the more important will quality of the service and differentiation become. And adding interesting data from a second and maybe innovative source might single out a specific service from the crowd. Let’s use weather forecasts as an example where the service with the best forecast quality can charge more or get most of the advertising money.
– making internal data available might impact the brand positively. An example could be creating indexes from the internal data which could be used by the public as comparisons and means of learning how to save energy at home, green driving, what to pay for things, etc.
Needless to say a very well thought through strategy has to be in place in order to avoid major mistakes like giving away the crown jewels or challenging peoples integrity.
In order for the big M2M boom to happen we need to make bits and pieces fit better together, end to end, in order to drive down cost for development and maintenance, to avoid duplication of efforts, to avoid fork lift upgrades of systems, simplify integration with partners and to improve time to market of services. Standardized and open API:s are important parts of that development and I think we will see an increasing amount of independent middle-men collecting data from different sources then cleaning and organizing the data in order to sell it. Such companies would help establishing standard API:s which is good for the M2M industry.