Three Trends That Will Bring the Internet of Things to the Forefront

Up until now, the Internet of Things (IoT) has only existed in the peripheral vision of small and medium-sized businesses. With companies such DropCam raising an eye-watering $30 million and SmartThings taking in $12.5 million in investments to kick start their businesses, the expense of designing an IoT platform or prototype has put many smaller manufacturers out of the picture.

Even the inclusion of simple IoT components in products takes considerable solution engineering and an ongoing commitment in IT to maintain the customer support service. As a result, only extremely well-funded enterprises have had a hand in the network. However, a new breed of solutions is here to level the playing field.

In this article I will look at how the tech landscape is changing and why education, a new IoT as a service model, and a crop of bright-eyed startups will see the rapid development of a multitude of new IoT products from a whole range of manufacturers.

The Problems for Smaller Manufacturers
Today, the IoT seems to be a hot topic with everyone except technology manufacturers. A recent survey of 561 executives worldwide by The Economist Intelligence Unit, suggested just how far the average business is from using IoT in manufactured goods. Only 19% were planning radical changes to harness the potential of smart things; and only 39% had introduced training in digital skills.

This is not surprising. When we look at the IoT, it is a galaxy of concepts in formation, making it difficult to understand and even harder for companies to get on board.

There are myriad problems at play. Firstly, it’s essential that devices can talk to each other — the value for consumers is a network of smart objects that can be controlled and can intercommunicate, no matter their brand or function. This not only involves complex engineering of both software and hardware, but also requires competitors to collaborate to ensure their devices function together. Without an exclusive international standard for IoT communications protocols, this is an extremely tough task for smaller businesses.

Then there’s the problem of security and customer confidence, as well as ongoing issues with network, engineering, and even purpose – does IoT connectivity add value to the consumer? It’s an expensive question to get wrong, and few smaller producers are willing to stick their necks out and do it themselves or hire costly iTechnology outsourcing solutions.

Three Big Solutions for Small Manufactures

1. The knowledge: Enterprise leading the way
Education and mentoring are essential for companies stepping out into new territory. iTechnology enterprises like AT&T and Hitachi have formed consulting groups to help businesses take on the IoT challenge and start offering their own integrated IoT solutions.

AT&T’s connection kit promises to “accelerate IoT device development with exceptional support” and provides development testing to speed up production and reduce costs. Hitachi Consulting runs an IoT/Innovation Workshop to educate and “drive business value,” ultimately promoting innovation in the field.

Once there are footsteps to follow, we can walk with confidence. Moves like this will help educate and encourage SMEs to take a risk and enter this exciting new market.

2. The Hardware: IoT as a Service
We are now seeing a new breed of “IoT as a service” platforms, known as Smart Tag Consumer Technology companies (STCT), entering the market. They are taking away the need for expensive technology outsourcing houses and making the IoT accessible to manufacturers everywhere. These companies allow manufacturers to incorporate IoT functionality into their goods with virtually no overhead.

Powered by a cloud-based service and requiring no electronics or batteries, the smart tags can be included in a variety of materials, ranging from metal to synthetic laminates, with full branding of the sponsoring company. STCTs offer “Instant-on,” Smart Tag solutions — manufacturers simply need to attach the tag to their product and they are ready to go, only requiring activation by the consumer.

The Smart Tags provide a number of data-gathering functionalities, as well as offer value to customers with product recovery services for lost items. As the technology and functionality develops we will see increasing numbers of producers including tags in their products and a whole lot more value added for customers.

3. The Software: Startups making IoT connection easy
Currently, 93% of developers are exclusively designing apps for smartphones, rather than software for the IoT. However, a number of startups have entered the market, with platforms and APIs, which gives small businesses and developers an easy way to connect their products to the Cloud.
IoT startup thethings.iO, for example, promises “fast and scalable connection of things to the Internet,” and focuses on monitoring and management solutions with real time analytics. The scalable solution works in three programming languages (Javascript, Python, and Arduino) and offers multiple protocol management and device interoperability.

Konekt is another service that offers cloud infrastructure, network and APIs to businesses, helping them connect their devices and allow for interoperability and communications. The startup offers a SIM card that works in 100 countries and APIs which provide device management and troubleshooting. Konekt also offers robust security with device-to-cloud data encryption services.

As awareness of these types of services grows, developers and manufacturers will be able to concentrate on creating great products, rather than having to worry how to manage the deeper problems associated with security, connectivity and interoperability. It’s a new dawn for the IoT and it’s the consumer who is about to benefit.

Gartner Predicts 2016 IOT

 

 


02 December 2015 | ID:G00293265

Many Internet of Things (IoT) implementations are limited in scope, being driven by business units or functional areas, thereby making capture of enterprisewide benefits problematic.

Much of the value of IoT in the commercial and industrial sectors will be behind the firewall in what we call the "intranet of things."

A market for IoT algorithms is emerging, creating opportunities to tap into third-party analytics to create business value.

Product companies that are planning to transform into IoT-enabled service companies will encounter unanticipated execution challenges that impede business results.

Recommendations

Treat IoT data as a strategic enterprise asset, and develop an advanced analytics strategy for creating and acquiring algorithms that deliver business value-add.

Focus on use cases and benefits when planning commercial and industrial implementations of IoT; also, consider deploying proprietary and secure communication networks to create your own intranet of things.

Develop an advanced analytics strategy for creating value (algorithms) from IoT sensor data, and begin evaluating providers of analytics services.

Be prepared for volatility in the IoT service provider landscape as various IoT-enabled services encounter difficulties establishing viable business models.

Strategic Planning Assumptions
Through 2018, 80% of IoT implementations will squander transformational opportunities by focusing on narrow use cases and analytics.

Through 2020, 70% of industrial and commercial IoT implementations will be intranets of things that deliver operational benefits.

Read more..

Solar powered beacon announced

Credit: Fujitsu Laboratories

Credit: Fujitsu Laboratories

Fujitsu’s just announced a solar powered, flexible substrate Bluetooth LE beacon which seems like quite a nice little package.  While Tile and other competitors rely on batteries or power connections, the Fujitsu unit gets by on a small solar cell.  With a conformal, flexible substrate and (apparently) onboard GPS, it could be a winner in many applications.

Products like this are going to play a huge role in IoT and customer experience applications.  The most common currently identified use cases in retail and location tracking are the smallest tip of a very large iceberg.  You’re going to start seeing many, many more beacon projects beyond the retail store and tracking your keys.

We’re gearing up to work with beacon technology in Scante’s IoT driven customer experience apps and keeping an eager eye out for the infrastructure initiatives required for wide adoption of beacons in manufactured products.

As some of those systems fall into place over the next couple of years, watch out: Beacons are going to be everywhere on practically everything. IoT and customer experience apps – the tools manufacturers are going to rely on for the majority of customer interactions — will be forever changed.

The combination of beacons, IoT and customer facing mobile apps will change the way companies do customer support, parts, services, loyalty, marketing, and most of their customer contact. If you’re interested, give us a shout.  We’ll be glad to discuss in detail and show you what we’ve been doing with these ideas.

Show Me the Money, wait, wrong movie…

Michael Denis has a new post on generating bottom line results with IoT that’s right up our alley here at Scante.

Michael Davis

Michael Davis

Mike raises critical distinctions between building capabilities in a new technology area and actually delivering bottom line results in real world applications.

Of course, this resonates hugely with us.  His examples from aerospace MRO are directly applicable for a broad swath of manufacturing companies and service providers in engineered products markets.

IoT on the wrong path

The vast majority of IoT offerings focus on infrastructure for communications and cloud data, while the real problem for most companies is how to capitalize on the data and connectivity to their products in the field.

Among several other excellent points, Mike notes that IoT data and connectivity need to lead to faster and better decisions, improved processes, new and better business models and improved profitability.  Most IoT efforts, don’t begin to deliver on these ideas.

New models for the IoT Era

But, even at our early stage, we’re taking a very different path.  Already, we’re working with several companies in one particular vertical market to mesh IoT data and business process from 4-5 companies into unified, customer facing apps.  These “IoT Ecosystem” apps will help extend their business models for MRO parts and services beyond what they can do individually.

We’re using IoT data to provide vastly improved tools to identify wear and impending failure on critical parts used across a number of manufacturing markets.  At the same time, we’re using our CX apps to help capture parts and services revenue from the improved diagnostics and customer interface.  Because we’ve spent so much time and effort on the app platform, we can do these things rapidly and affordably.

We learned some hard lessons from our early IoT wins with big companies a decade + ago about capabilities vs real world results.  Everything we do these days is directed at producing real world results for companies — using IoT to deliver better support, capture the parts and services revenue, build long term engagement and loyal customers.

Read Michael’s piece, and give us a shout for more discussion.