Smart Homes For Real

January 7, 2015

_799128_pursepad300Smart 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.

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Don’t forget the IoE entrepreneurs!

July 1, 2014

bulbEntrepreneurs have always made the difference. And will always be the ones pushing the boundaries and finding new innovative solutions to problems. They continuously bet their time, energy, savings, past and future on making their ideas fly. And they are always the ones to create the next big thing. When we look back at how we ended up where we are, it is easy to pin-point the inventions, individuals and companies that made difference. But it is very difficult to figure out which few of all thousands of entrepreneurs that will make the difference onwards.

Internet of Things is now incredibly hot and most people would agree that it will impact states, industries and life of people around the globe. Governments are making big statements and big investments in IoT to put their country in good position. Analysts and other experts claim they have the answers to what will happen, when and how much. And operators, consultants and vendors are fighting for an important role in what to come.

If we read the books of recent history we will find that the Internet started off as a research project but entrepreneurs made it what it is today. ISP:s connected people and businesses to the Internet, companies like US Robotics provided fast affordable modems and remote access solutions, Netscape and others created browsers and Alta Vista powerful search engines. Then thousands of web designers started to make good-looking web sites followed by CMS systems for more organized creation and maintenance of webs. While organizations started to benefit from the efficiency and improved service possibilities using the Internet, entrepreneurs exploited new innovative ways of doing things and completely new ideas. And ever since we have seen new innovative companies growing from nothing to big or huge: Amazon, Google, Twitter, SalesForce.com, LinkedIn, Spotify, Skype, Klarna, iZettle and TrueCaller just to mention a few – yes I am Swedish… Nobody figured out before hand how the Internet value chains would look like, which business models would be successful, the impact it would make or which companies would become the new giants.

Internet of Things is a misleading name. It’s the same Internet and we are just adding things to it. That’s why I prefer Internet of Everything. It is safe to argue that the development of Internet of Everything will follow a similar path as the Internet of People and Businesses. The main differences are that it will happen faster and ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse this time. It will be entrepreneurs once again who form the future and there are many of them around already! I have 28 of them in my Swedish M2M Service Enabler alliance alone but there are thousands of them around the world. And they are fighting hard every day to prove to customers, partners and investors that their idea, solution or approach will be a great success.

I would welcome more appreciation and support for the entrepreneurs! They don’t need a lot and it is paying customers who should fund most of their development. But a little help to go abroad to meet potential customers and partners and, most importantly, commercial pilot projects at home would be a very good start. There are initiatives already including startup and incubation programs, competitions like EIT ICT Labs Idea Challenge, Cisco’s IoT challenge and IPSO Alliance IoT Competition as well as investors looking into this field. But let’s give the entrepreneurs what they need to make this happen for us!


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