This year the BLN’s IoT Forum has shown that there is further progress in IoT, with some companies presenting case studies of deployed IoT solutions. But there is still a long way to go on many fronts.
A great concept that came out of the conference, but applies equally to any sphere is the idea of ‘Pinch with Pride’. Shared by Marie Gilmour of Crossrail’s Innovate 18 programme, it refers to the fact that people copy good ideas, so if your innovation, improvement or idea gets pinched – be proud. The more times it’s copied, the better the idea. I love this concept!
1 – It’s all about the data – or is it the sensors?
The keynote speech, from IBM’s Andy Stanford-Clarke, put forward the view that ‘it’s all about the data’.
My view (as expressed in the panel session ‘We don’t need more Sensors, just better Data Analysis’) is that it’s all about how you use that data and we need to get actionable information as simply as possible from the mass of data points.
The discussion panel on data or sensors started off seeming like a ‘chicken or egg’ question, as both are essential, but in reality there are many applications in which you need only to sense and then use that information (on a map, or directly) to find out what to do. Examples of this approach are transport – with people counters allowing better travel convenience for customers and transport businesses benefiting from efficient deployment of buses and trains at the times when they are needed; or with a Fitness device telling you straight away how many calories you have consumed and burnt or whether you have exercised enough each day.
Data analysis has been hampered in the past by loss of data, or summarising rather than keeping all the raw data and therein lies a whole discussion in itself on how much data should we keep and how do we allow access to all those who would like to use it?
Whatever we do in the IoT, we need some sensing and measurement and then some data to work with, but ultimately we need to use that information to make improvements to how we work to create real benefit.
2 – Security, Security, Security
With more emphasis on businesses and consumers adopting internet based devices, the security has to get better, and needs to be considered right at the start of any product development, not as an afterthought.
How safe is all the data going to be? How secure is my identity information? My password? In one of the most entertaining and yet terrifying talks of the conference, Ken Munro demonstrated over and over again that many of the products already out in consumer space are far from secure. From talking toys, to smart doorbells and wifi kettles, Ken was able to show mapping of all people using some products and some of the apps in common use have had to be adapted so that ‘hackers’ cannot see where you live QUITE so easily. However it was a scary wake-up call to discover how easy it had been for him to hack in and take control of devices, or log the locations and details of users.
3 – Mainstream
The IoT can be applied in a number of situations – including the retail industry. We had a fantastic presentation from Eva Pascoe all about IoT for retail, and how engineers don’t know how to shop!
Richard Sims talked about a smart lighting deployment in Southampton, saving money for the Council. It’s a starting point for Smarter Cities.
Care homes and applications that are able to help care for the elderly were also high on the agenda – smart monitoring that enables families to know that their relatives are well, mentioned by a number of speakers, are a further mainstream application taking off.
The business cases will become more obvious for other applications in future, but there is a whole range of applications that can help solve problems and that are available right now. You don’t have to roll out a full scale smart city or IoT business to benefit.
4 – Smart Transport
There’s a huge opportunity to reorganise how we move around – from demand response traffic management to driverless vehicles, bullet trains to on-demand taxis. Will we all be working or being entertained in the car while it takes us to our destination, and therefore we don’t care how long it takes? Will we have joined up transport systems and buses and trains running every two minutes, so we don’t mind waiting because it will never be for long? Is the connected car the star?
Prof John Miles presented a number of very pragmatic and sensible solutions – none of which involved ‘ban cars altogether from the city’. With so many options to improve our commuting and travelling life, things can only get better.
5 – The ubiquitous Smart Home rears its head again
One of the panel discussion questions was ‘How can we make Consumers Want a Smart Home?’ and after consideration I believe there are three main answers to this:-
- First up is SECURITY – no one is going to buy something that makes (or even potentially makes) their home LESS secure!
- The manufacturers need to solve a real problem (not one assumed or guessed – market research first please!)
- Consumers have to WANT the product. Think about it – there is no problem with take up of smartphones, tablets, computer games, expensive TV sets, satellite/cable channels…… that should tell us something.
The overarching conclusion is – we need to use the IoT to solve real problems. And that is when we will see take up of IoT products and services from both businesses and consumers. So the learning is, when you have that (smart) light-bulb moment inventing your amazing IoT product or solution, please ask yourself, in the wise words from Y Cam, ‘Is it Useful? Simple? Affordable? Trusted? Competitive?’ and then ask yourself the key question on the lips of all consumers and buyers – ‘So What’? If you can overcome that objection, you’re ready to launch into the IoT market!
If you missed the IoT Forum you can catch up here
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