Victoria and her team are true entrepreneurs! After many successful years, their current market weakened and through serious discussions with their customers they found the “next big thing” – printing active light. Sounds crazy but that’s what they do to respond to serious needs for people to be seen when falling into the ocean, running in the evenings, skiing, working in dangerous environments or simply to look fantastic. The material they have developed is connected to a battery and can be washed and applied on wearables, helmets and so on. When they won 2015 Outside Gear of the Show together with POC at Interbike 2015 in Las Vegas, their journey really took off.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Better use of energy is one of the key challenges to our society today and smart metering is the first step towards a smarter electricity system. It makes it possible to understand the overall level of electricity consumption and for example compare it with historical data or similar buildings. But in order to understand which devices consumes what in a house, office or apartment we have had to put a meter on that specific device for a while and track the result.
In April last year I wrote that the M2M industry was leaving the connectivity focused baby phase and entered its teens. This was great news and happened much faster than when we connected people and businesses to the Internet. In essence this meant that all players who wanted to be part of building the Internet of Everything, not only the connectivity guys, started to gather around the table. Looking at when Internet of people and businesses was developed made it obvious that no one could make it alone and partnerships became the name of the game. That’s pretty much where we are today and these efforts are very promising.
A major change has to take place before the industry leaves its teens and the building of Internet of Everything gains solid momentum – the IT companies have to take the lead. Up until now connectivity players have been enabling and driving but since “data is the gold of M2M” it has to be the IT players who take over before we really can get going. The value of any M2M application is realized when the information collected or created shows up in a decision-making system or a system managing processes of any kind. This is why application developers, system integrators, app developers, architects, UX designers, CIO:s, business analysts and others are key to bring on board. And this is why leading IT companies will have to join the party before take off.
I have been waiting for the first ones to walk the talk and I’m delighted to share with you that it’s happening here and now! Cisco has rapidly been ramping up their efforts in the Internet of Everything space with research, reports, speeches, acquisitions, idea challenges, etc. And last week they joined our Swedish M2M Service Enabler (SMSE) alliance as the first sponsor from the IT industry. This was very well received by our 26 members of the alliance and media. I expect collaboration and results quite rapidly and I am convinced we will have the leading IT players in Sweden, vendors and consultants, in our alliance before summer. My aim is to make Internet of Everything for Real 2014 in Stockholm June 18 the first event where leading connectivity and IT players will discuss how to create and promote the Internet of Everything together with the entrepreneurs and customers.
Yet another evidence of the importance of IT in building the Internet of Everything was an interview with Klas Bendrik, Group CIO at Volvo Cars, in CIO Sweden today (in Swedish). Mr Bendrik says that everything change when both customers and products are connected – how they develop, design, sell and service cars. It influences the entire life cycle of the car and redefines the entire foundation for their company. “I and our IT function get involved in all business development when IT becomes part of the core processes in the car life cycle”. Voila! Data is the gold of M2M. The only difference from when Internet of people and businesses was built is that ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse this time. Decision makers need to look into what the Internet of Everything will mean to their business and industry now.