The IoT Landscape Comes Into Focus

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So – one of the things you hear a lot about the IoT is that it’s NOT NEW.

All the parts that make up what could be an IoT landscape already exist and we’ve been doing similar things for years but calling it M2M (machine to machine).

This is partially true, in that we have been doing M2M and you can view IoT as an extension of this.

However…

Where IoT differs is that the use of smaller, cheaper sensors means that we are trying to monitor and measure far more things than ever before – not one pipeline, but thousands, not one bus, but all of them, not one huge expensive air quality detector up a mountain but thousands of smaller ones all over towns and cities. And the Things we are measuring and monitoring may be in very remote places (think large scale farms in the Outback), or moving about all the time (people, animals, vehicles). On top of that IoT often involves a model of sharing data, rather than a linear sending of data from one object to one management system and one team.

m2m vs IoT

M2M vs IoT (Image: Lincoln University)

The IoT model therefore usually includes some form of cloud-based platform into which all the gathered data will go, and out of which all the valuable (actionable) information will be determined and dispatched to the relevant end users.

So, the same in some ways, but also very different. The advantages are improved knowledge of what’s going on in our homes, industries and environment and the promise of major improvements and efficiency benefits in business areas as diverse as transport, agriculture, animal welfare and healthcare.

It is this difference and the proliferation of potential applications which has led to the innovation of new technologies that can enable the Internet of Things (as opposed to continuing with M2M or the status quo). From better, cheaper, long-lived sensors to a plethora of wireless communication technologies and a veritable array of ‘IoT platforms’, the stuff available to create an IoT project is now part of an increasingly crowded and confusing market place. (IoT in 2016. An Increasingly Crowded Landscape).

Does this proliferation help us or hinder us when trying to build the Internet of Things?

For example, a number of new low power wireless communication technologies have emerged recently, offering coverage over much longer distances, including NB-IoT, LoRa, Sigfox, LTE and RPMA, all of which offer slightly different benefits and are being rolled out by different organisations including the telecoms giants. This is in addition to the existing networks such as cellular, wi-fi etc. Which one should you use? Add to this over 700 platforms on the market (IoT Startup State of The Union 2016 – Wing Venture Capital) and it’s easy to see why customers, especially those in the ‘Early Majority’, the key group everyone aims to sell a new technology to, would stand well back, and wait to ‘see what happens’.

Hence a hiatus in seeing large scale ‘real IoT’ rolling out.

Customers don’t want an ‘Internet of Bits’.

Now the Early Majority are an interesting group of buyers, because what they want more than specific technologies is really a full solution, or even someone who can come along and ‘make it happen’ for them in a relatively risk-free way. They don’t care what’s in the box, they want something they can use. And what that buying behaviour leads to is a tendency to use tried and tested suppliers (I’m sorry, you’re not on our preferred supplier list) or large established businesses they can trust. We’ve all heard the saying ‘no-one got fired for using IBM’.

What that leads to is something that gets talked about a lot in IoT circles – an ecosystem. Smaller companies with different parts of the IoT chain joining together and co-operating to form a complete (or more complete) solution that can look more attractive to customers. In some cases, it can result in larger companies buying smaller ones, either to achieve an ecosystem, or to acquire a key technology. (But don’t rely on this – not everyone gets that lucky!)

Usually, these big players will be guided by their in-house technology gurus and trusted advisers and will start small, with a pilot project. This is good news for smaller players and innovators, if they can engage, because they have the opportunity for field trials and a champion customer.

The question now is how to form those ecosystems, how to find pilot studies, how to meet the right people and how to get in front of the right customers?

Can you see where this is going…?

Join us for the IoT Forum 2017 on 15-16th March where we gather all the key people in IoT together to help them meet and engage with the right people, find out about all the latest technology, innovation, case studies, trials, tribulations* and triumphs.

*(Yes, I did mention tribulations. It’s the real world at The BLN events – some things don’t work out and we all need to learn about that too).

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