I am generally accustomed to Click Bait especially related to Internet of Things – after all it has been the buzzword in the Technology industry for the last few years:
However I was surprised to find investment advice being provided at a reputed site like Fool.com. It is titled: “Intel Corporation’s New Internet of Things Chip Looks Like a Powerhouse“. I read through the entire article, and found the following justification for why the new chip is an “IoT Powerhouse”:
I suspect these new chips should help Intel further grow its already rapidly rising Internet of Things business, as the substantially better performance in both graphics and computing should be quite attractive to potential customers.
Clearly the Click Bait worked because it made my weekly Google Alert – it probably has enough shares or enough page rank that it made it my list of weekly alerts.
Now don’t get me wrong – Intel is investing heavily in IoT, and all the news indicates that they are serious about IoT. What I am taken aback is that the article is encouraging readers to invest on the basis of this new chip – indicating that it will change the “game” but no real evidence on how the attributes of this chip are suited for the IoT market. No discussion if it will be used in the 50 Billion things connected, and if so how do the “graphics” core help the IoT scenario.
There has been a steady movement to build dedicated networks for connecting sensors and devices to address the challenges posed by existing data networks (e.g. Cellular/3G/4G or Satellite) networks. The two primary contenders in the long or wide range IoT/Sensor networks are LoRA (by Semtech) and SigFox. Two recent events indicate the momentum is building:
Actility has received $25M funding led by Ginko Ventures. Two notable things – it will enable Actility to put momentum behind its ThingPark platform. The platform leverages the LoRA wide area network. Ginko is backed by Foxconn (world’s largest electronics manufacturing company – Apple manufactures the iPhone with Foxconn). Additional investors include KPN, Swisscom & Orange.
I have Google Alerts set up on “Internet of Things”. While most of the alerts from the weekly email were clogged with the announcement of Google’s Brillo – one of the links was about Dell’s IoT Strategy. The title of the post was classic click bait:
I was curious on what beans are being spilled. What I read was utter disappointment and made me think of every technology company is trying to hitch itself to the IoT Bandwagon. The essence of the Dell’s IoT Strategy seems to be centered around selling an Intel Celeron based PC that is being called a “Gateway”, and without any specific OS! I was expecting more but then I had to remind myself – building IoT applications is not trivial, and requires understanding and executing the notion of distributed applications that integrate with various business processes to unlock value. And that something Dell is not good at. It is a “box” company trying to cash on the IoT buzz.
There is no doubt that “Internet of Things” or IoT is the buzz word in technology – destined to change our future forever. And yes I do believe that IoT will change our future or rather the change has begun, and only accelerating. However another buzz word that marries IoT with Big Data – is Predictive Analytics. It is all about how all the sensor and machine data can help find patterns, and be beneficial for use cases like predicting equipment failure. IoT Analytics, I feel, at times is a bubble within a bubble.
Is Predictive Analytics important? Yes it is but not at the cost of how IoT can change the present – not just the future. I see the following steps before you can get into a predictive stage for the mass market (i.e. some use cases probably have crossed several of these steps):
1. Reliable connectivity of sensors, and reliable transfer of data – example did the temperature spike because it actually became hot or it was anomaly because of loose connections or software glitch?
2. If already connected in the world of instrumentation such as SCADA or other legacy proprietary protocols – migrating either the connectivity or the data from the sensors over to the world of IP & Cloud Computing
3. Making present, and the near present better than before: actions that can be taken without the need for predicting the future such as shut down the equipment right now because the temperature has actually spiked.
Predicting the future is one of the many benefits of IoT.
The Internet of Things (IoT) enables a new class of service – Product as a Service. A world where devices, things, appliances, objects become a service being offered. This had started at the high end of market many years ago even before IoT went mainstream and technology analysts forecasting numbers on the “billions” of devices that would be connected. A great example was that of Rolls Royce and its airplane engine division that even before 2009 was generating significant service revenue by monitoring the jet engines while in flight: Britain’s lonely high-flier.
Imagine a world where you don’t pay for the light bulbs or doors or HVACs upfront but you pay monthly – it sounds preposterous – doesn’t it? Take it a step further – home builders could bundle all these services – team up with a finance company and include it all in a single lease? It does sound preposterous but attempts of this nature are real. Consider what BMW & Solar City are doing – buy an EV from BMW, and you can have Solar Power included in your lease – it is the value being generated by connecting and controlling everything!
Last week I blogged to walk the talk, and getting on with IoT. I came across a blog post covering the AHR Expo – AHR is show focused on air conditioning, heating and refrigeration expo. Nest after being acquired by Google last year made HVAC, Thermostats and IoT popular. The acquisition was a major driver in throwing visibility on IoT. The reality, though, was that thermostats (and hence HVAC) were being enabled by IoT for quite sometime. But I digress…
Businesses of all sizes use HVAC, Refrigeration and Building Automation. And companies such as Honeywell, Schneider, Daiken, and Rheem have been enabling their products to be smart and connected. HVAC and Building Automation systems are installed & maintained, typically, by third parties. The third party integrators, contractors form the backbone of this business.
A sign of success is when contractors who install these “AHR” systems, and support them for repairs and maintenance – are benefitting from enabling smart connectivity on the systems. This leads to a win-win for both the contractors and the consumers or business owners. First step is to enable smart connectivity to their equipment, next step is to train and make the IoT-enabled tools available to the contractors.
Kevin Ashton, the father of IoT, has a simple advice for companies looking to leverage and benefit from IoT – “Begin”. In Why the Internet of Things isn’t like the Big Bang Kevin says, and I quote:
In what Ashton calls “the wild frontier of IoT,” the best advice he can give is “Begin.”
“There’s too much sitting around in meetings, staring at PowerPoints, waiting for someone to tell you the answer. When someone else knows the answer, you’ve already lost.”
But where to begin? Pick an internal project, and enable it with IoT. Roll it out to a limited set of customers, learn, tweak and update the solution. Analytics is supposed to be the big killer app – the data coming in from these sensors, and things that would unlock the potential of Big Data or Small Data. But to begin – collect the data. Or if you are already collecting the data (and many industrial companies have been doing “IoT” for a long time) – figure out a way of putting a wrapper around that system, and APIfy it.
That’s how to begin…