PEOPLE TRUST PEOPLE: The Internet of Things isn’t even so much about things

What the Internet of Things is NOT about

It seems that if your company doesn’t have an IoT strategy nowadays, you might as well quit. But not just any strategy will do. Let’s look at some of the hot topics in IoT today that are unlikely to make a dent in market adoption. Here are some insights from our most recent publication, IoT Developer Megatrends – a short publication on the most important trends for IoT.

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Here’s what everyone knows about the Internet of Things. It’s going to be enormous. We’ll have tens of billions of devices by the end of the decade. This is a multi-trillion dollar opportunity over the next years. All the major players in consumer electronics, mobile, cloud, factory automation, enterprise IT and more will be fiercely competing for a piece of that pie. All this information shouts: [tweetable]if your company doesn’t have an IoT strategy you might as well quit[/tweetable].

Not just any strategy, of course. The history of technology is littered with great concepts and engineering feats that never became mainstream products. It’s worth looking at some of the hot topics in IoT today that are unlikely to make a dent in market adoption.

What IoT is not

A lot of the buzz in the media and on industry forums is about the Internet of Things technology itself. Standards. Security. Privacy. Whether to use Bluetooth, Wifi, cellular or mesh networks. If history is any guide, all of these important questions will get solved over time, but none are an actual roadblock to market adoption. iOS and Android didn’t depend on app standards to revolutionize the smartphone industry, for example.

Meanwhile, product designers have discovered IoT and are adding connectivity (internet) and services to their products with blazing speed. Washing machines, socks, ovens, shoes, cars, door locks, toothbrushes and even flower pots are becoming “smart”. The problem with this “product with an app” approach is that all those disconnected, individual apps will soon become impossible for users to manage.

The Internet of Things isn’t even so much about things. For example, companies like Google-owned Waze achieve better traffic intelligence by crowdsourcing smartphone data rather than through an extensive network of road sensors, typical for a Smart City project. True smart cities have taken note, and are starting to use Waze’s data. Waze literally never shipped a thing.

Breaking Free of Internet and Things

Here’s an uncontroversial, but often forgotten truth. [tweetable]The value of IoT products doesn’t come from the technology or the internet or the things[/tweetable]. Value is created in IoT by making sense of data, turning it into knowledge and meaningful action. It’s not the parking sensor that matters, but finding a free parking spot quickly and without frustration.

This perspective on the Internet of Things has some interesting implications. We predict that the most interesting IoT applications in 2020 will use data that already exists today, rather than new sensors.

Why? Value is created by making sense of data, and many data will have more than one possible source (like in the Waze vs traffic sensor example). New devices will be more expensive to build, install and maintain than solutions that mine existing sources of data. When a solution can be found that doesn’t require new sensors or hardware, it will prevail. Already, companies like Cellint use data from mobile network operators to monitor traffic jams in cities.

Internet of Things is not about how to add a service to my product, but about making my product work with every other service. It’s about how all those sensors, devices, things and services can be integrated into the user’s digital lifestyle. IoT is breaking free from Internet and Things.

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