The business of IoT,
curated & opinionated

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Blog Posts: August-September 2014


Blog posts by editor-in-chief Maxine Bingham about Internet of Things (IoT) topics and trends, from a personal viewpoint.

 

Industrial Internet Consortium Logo

Rising Tide to Lift all Boats in the $10T Industrial Internet of Things Market
19 September 2014

Accenture’s new report about “Driving Unconventional Growth through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)” discusses how companies are benefitting today, and can benefit tomorrow from the IIoT:

“In the future, successful companies will use the Industrial Internet of Things to capture new growth through three approaches: boost revenues by increasing production and creating new hybrid business models, exploit intelligent technologies to fuel innovation and transform their workforce,” notes the report. Download PDF

Industry clearly sees these advantages and has been aggressive about developing not just solutions, but cooperative endeavors, The Industrial Internet Consortium, now with over 50 members (of which Accenture is one), was founded in March 2014, by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel in order to advance the development and adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things, including the development of test beds, use cases and reference architectures. Open to any member who wishes to join, the consortium is designed to “break down the barriers of technology silos to support better access to big data with improved integration of the physical and digital worlds to unlock [the] business value” of the Industrial Internet.

GE has been demonstrating leadership in the IIoT, which research firm Gartner is predicting will generate over $300B by 2020. According to an article by CNBC:

“To date, GE has pulled in about $800 million in revenue from industrial Internet-related sales, up from $290 million last year. GE economists estimate that the wave of innovation unleashed by the industrial Internet could boost global GDP by as much as $10 trillion to $15 trillion over the next 20 years.

In the beginning, a lot of the marketplace will be focused on adding sensors to things and connecting them to the Internet," said Hung LeHong, research vice president at research firm Gartner. While GE's lead is definitely impacting the direction of this digital evolution, analysts expect the phenomenon's ripple effect to spread in stages over the next decade or so, with manufacturing, health care and insurance leading its adoption, according to a Gartner estimate. It forecasts incremental revenue generated by the Internet of Things suppliers alone to generate $309 billion by 2020.”

This kind of industry cooperation will be critical, especially in the areas of security and interoperability. And, looking at a list of members indicates not only a company’s support but hints at which applications we can expect, such as Connected Car applications for Toyota Motor Sales, to potentially new WiFi connectivity (Grid Connect) solutions. Thus, the IIC consortium provides a glimpse into the future of the Industrial Internet, as well as which companies intend to be major players in its development.


Network Image on Keyboard

Are the IoT and SDN a Match Made in Heaven?
4 September 2014

An opinion piece in Light Reading, “SDN: Secret Sauce to the Internet of Things,” sent to me by a friend, raised the issue of how important software defined networking (SDN) is to developing of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, especially for the enterprise and industrial applications.

Authored by Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation, the article concludes:

“To accommodate the arrival of IoT, networks need an architecture that can cost-effectively scale services using software while also eliminating the need for large investments in proprietary hardware platforms. The new wave of connected devices and services will all be shared on the same -- often-congested -- networks as current PCs, tablets, smartphones, and video sources and sinks. The coming of age of new devices and services means that these networks will have to be optimized to handle what is being asked of them, dynamically and often on short notice.

While many are excited for the truly connected lifestyle, for the industrial Internet, and for IoT to come to fruition, network operators are scrambling to adopt SDN to best handle what is on the horizon.”

Having been involved in the creation of the OpenDaylight global community for the development of SDN standards upon an open source  “building block” infrastructure, as well as working with Dan Pitt on behalf of member company, BLADE Network Technologies (became IBM System Networking), Dan’s article is a wake up call that enterprise (data center) networking is as important for the IoT as wireless networking for the home or wearables.

SDN is a more agile and massively scalable approach to enterprise (data center) networking that enables greater functionality through open APIs (application programming interfaces), as well as empowering data center administrators with greater choice in hardware and software, thus reducing costs. It is a relatively new architectural approach (thus, the development of OpenDaylight to help accelerate adoption). For a high-level technical description of SDN see SDNCentral.

Since connectivity is essential to the IoT, Cisco is one of my indicators for the IoT’s future. The company has taken a leadership role in promoting the importance of the IoT for itself and the industry (which the company is attempting to brand as “the Internet of Everything”), backed by comments by CEO John Chambers, who has also been a champion for Cisco and SDN.

Along with its SDN involvement, the company has been investing in IoT companies, most recently in ItsOn. They have also invested resources in SDN and IoT open standards development (see the AllSeen Alliance, (managed by the Linux Foundation, which also manages OpenDaylight) and which is competing with other IoT standards groups. Whether Cisco delivers proprietary implementations of IoT networking as it has done in the past with SDN and OpenFlow, it indicates the company is serious about these networking architectures. (OpenFlow is a networking switch protocol that some call the earliest SDN standard, thus Dan Pitt’s interest in SDN and the IoT.)

To help predict the future of the IoT, it will be useful to watch for SDN/IoT enterprise networking announcements from major players such as Cisco, Juniper Networks and HP, along with the debate over which wireless technology will win out (e.g., THREAD vs. ZigBee vs. WiFi). Since programmable, more agile, lower cost and massively scalable data center networking is a critical factor in the IoT really taking off, especially in industrial and enterprise solutions, we can afford to spend more time understanding how SDN will help propel the Internet of Things.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Models wearing Intel MICA bracelets

27 August 2014
Where are Wearables

Wearables are a big topic in the Internet of Things, caught between it's not taking off, to luxury retailers such as Barneys, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg jumping on the wearables bandwagon.

Wearables are smart objects that can be worn on the body and/or on clothing, ideally comfortably. These devices are typically connected wirelessly to the Internet, where data can be passed back and forth, enabling a person to have one’s heart monitored, fitness clocked, Dick Tracey-like wrist watches enabling video conferencing or reality enhanced (i.e., Google Glass). There are experiments going on regarding temporary tattoos, one includes the ability to enable one’s perspiration to generate power for electronic devices!

However, there is controversy about how fast the wearables market is taking off, and what the long-term market forecasts are.

For example, according to an article in The Economist, by 2013 the worldwide market of fitness wearables from Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone (with 97% of the market) was $238M, and, according to research by Endeavour Partners, one-third of users discard their fitness trackers after six months.

On the other hand, top industry analyst firms such as IDC and ABI Research believe that wearables are quickly advancing from early adopter to mainstream status. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that wearables “took a huge step forward over the past year [and shipment volumes will exceed 19 million units in 2014, more than tripling last year's sales. From there, the global market will swell to 111.9 million units in 2018, resulting in a CAGR of 78.4%.”

ABI Research predicts that the enterprise wearables market will reach $18B by 2019, growing from “a CAGR value of 56.1% over the next five years, becoming an integral part of enterprise mobile enablement strategies. As expected, the North American region will be the largest and grow at a CAGR value of 39% over the next five years. More interestingly, the Asia-Pacific region will become the second largest market outpacing Europe by 2019 with a CAGR of 90%.” ABI goes on to note that they have identified six kinds of enetrprise wearable devices: smart glasses, cameras, smart watches, healthcare, sports and activity trackers, and 3D motion trackers. Healthcare wearables, smart glasses, and smart watches will be the dominant form-factors purchased by the enterprise and used by employees.

Some of the issues I see is that (1) many consumer devices require fairly costly subscriptions for functionality – it’s the razor/razor blade scenario, which may be negatively impacting both sales and retention, (2) prices are high for devices such as Google Glass ($1.5k) and are only affordable to an elite (one can only image what Barney’s bracelet will cost), (3) one must pay for wireless/Wi-Fi connectivity which again adds to the cost, 4) luxury retailers appear to be using wearables more for PR than widespread adoption and 5) enterprises may be slow to adopt these devices due to unresolved, and serious, security vulnerabilities when objects are connected wirelessly and over the Internet.

Thus, while I am a bit skeptical at the rate of growth, wearables are gathering steam, although widespread adoption will depend upon useful, productive functionality, price and security.

Image courtesy of Intel


Gartner aug 2013 Hype Cycle Chart

17 August 2014
8 Reasons I Disagree with Gartner that the Internet of Things is Over-Hyped and Due for a Fall

After more than two decades in the tech industry, skepticism is my middle name. However, once convinced by data, I can become convicted about a new technological innovation. Thus, my exception to Gartner Inc.'s characterization of the Internet of Things in their recent "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2014."

For example, I agree with Gartner that over the next 5-10 years:

  • Natural language question answering, while great for publicity (i.e., IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy), promises very little in terms of significant revenue in the next 10 years, and, perhaps ever.

  • Consumer 3D will not become ubiquitous with consumers (companies will use it), and

  • Gamification (making everything we do appear like a game) is silliness

However, I disagree strongly with Gartner that the Internet of Things (IoT) is so hyped that it is in a “peak of inflated expectations,” is heading for a “trough of disillusionment” and its “plateau of productivity” could take as much as 10 years to reach. Why do I disagree with this?

1. Today’s tech giants, such as HP, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, etc., are facing reduced revenues due to competition from China, data center consolidation and commoditization. Only by becoming, an “Internet-Connected Enterprise,” as I call it, can they hope to restore their past glory, or, at least rev up revenues and profits. They can’t afford to wait 5-10 years for IoT to take off.

2. Enterprises don’t spend money easily. Cisco, Google and Microsoft are just a few of the big tech companies investing hundreds of millions, if not billions (in the case of Google) in IoT startups and technologies.

3. Governments, including the UK and Germany, have set up partnerships and funds for for-profit companies.

4. Research institutions, universities and global standards bodies, as well as for-profit manufacturers and consumer companies are working on IoT standards that will accelerate time-to-development and time-to-market once it all shakes out (however, no one will cease their IoT development in the meantime).

5. The Internet of Things is based on proven technologies, such as wireless connectivity, open software, public clouds, data center networking, smartphones and high performance computing, getting cheaper every day.

6. Connected car, healthcare and governmental IoT is happening at auto manufacturers, hospitals and cities around the world.

7. Hackers and spammers are not just interested, but already seeking ways to use IoT products in malicious way (see blog post on 7 August) – and, they only care about mayhem at a global scale.

8. Unlike the dotcom boom and bust (was very skeptical of that!), IoT companies and investors are focusing on revenues, profitability, and increased valuation from the get-go.

I could go on and on. While there is a great deal of work to make IoT solutions ubiquitous (i.e., security and standards), my ultimate data point is that without the Internet of Things, not only companies, but also economies, could collapse. IoT is not a “nice to have,” it’s a have to have. Thus, we will have it.

Chart: Gartner, Inc.'s "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2014"

Full disclosure:  have been employed by IBM in the past– however, please note that any opinions I may express about the company are based solely on publicly available sources and common sense.


Piggy bank with icons coming out of it

14 August 2014
Is Jeremy Rifkin Right that the Internet of Things Will Power a Post-Capitalist Economy?

Economist Jeremy Rifkin states in an opinion piece on March 15, 2014, for The New York Times on “The Rise of Anti-Capitalism” that

“…[some industry watchers argue that] the creeping reality of [today’s] zero-marginal-cost economy…will entice a sufficient number of consumers to purchase higher-end goods and specialized services, ensuring large enough profit margins to allow the capitalist market to continue to grow. But the number of people willing to pay for additional premium goods and services is limited… A formidable new technology infrastructure — the Internet of Things — is emerging with the potential to push much of economic life to near zero marginal cost over the course of the next two decades. This new technology platform is beginning to connect everything and everyone. Today more than 11 billion sensors are attached to natural resources, production lines, the electricity grid, logistics networks and recycling flows, and implanted in homes, offices, stores and vehicles, feeding big data into the Internet of Things. By 2020, it is projected that at least 50 billion sensors will connect to it.”

Rifkin argues, in this, other articles and in his book, “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism,” that this Internet of Things (IoT) explosion/infrastructure will usher in an almost utopian future of a “Collaborative Commons,” driven not by today’s capitalistic greed, but by the desire to share and work together for a socially responsible life.

Is he right? Will the Collaborative Commons be driven by non-profits, as he asserts? Or, will the IoT give a shot in the arm today’s capitalist system? The Internet makes an almost perfect market, one that continues to drive down the cost of goods and services.

Thus, while companies such as IBM, HP and Microsoft are laying off tens of thousands and seeing revenues drop, today’s “IoT Connected” businesses, such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Splunk, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, YouTube and Dropbox (and Google, of course) – are expanding and creating billions of dollars of value as can be seen by the examples below.

These new “IoT Connected” businesses are operating on a for-profit basis, not as non-profits as Rifkin predicts, but, based on initially free services that are then monetized via advertising and up-selling premium, subscription services (developed internally or via acquisitions).

Thus, while Rifkin is right in promoting a revolutionary change based on the Internet of Things, it is not non-profits that will drive new global economies, but for-profit “IoT Connected” enterprises that, while driven by the ideals of open software and shareware, will find new ways of creating wealth, and, we hope, in ways beneficial to societies worldwide.

Valuations/Sale Prices of New “IoT Connected” Companies

  • Snapchat: 10B

  • WhatsApp: 19B (price paid by Facebook in 2014)

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Woman opening refrigerator door

7 August 2014
Why is a Refrigerator the Mascot for this Essay about IoT Security?

The $7 trillion dollar by 2020 (IDC) Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon is driving tech ecosystem innovation and investment - from IC manufacturers (e.g., Intel, Freescale, Broadcom)  to networking companies (e.g., Cisco, HP, Google, dozens of startups).

However, what is glaringly AWOL are concerted industry efforts regarding the security of IoT products and services.

HP came out in July with a (although self-serving, also thought provoking) study on IoT vulnerability, claiming that 70% of IoT devices were vulnerable to attack (see: bit.ly/X4ediD). They recommend that not only vendors, but enterprises take a strong look at this issue at all levels of their infrastructure.

According to DefenseOne, the deputy director of the CIA, Dawn Meyerriecks, has spoken about the global dangers involved if we put our heads in the sand (or the silicon). She made her remarks during a session DefenseOne moderated at the July 2014 Aspen Security Forum (see: bit.ly/1zzj3C1). She recounted how a smart fridge "was used in a massive spam attack last year, involving more than 100,000 internet-connected devices and more than 750,000 spam emails." She warned about hackers getting access to health care and wearable devices through wireless transmission.

The four legs of the IoT are: (1) global interconnectivity, (2) performance/bandwidth, (3) big data/analytics and (4) open software and APIs (application programming interfaces). At each one of these legs, malicious attacks are not only possible, but inevitable.

If our refrigerators are already being used in denial of service attacks, or as spam bots, both industry and enterprises need to start uniting today on what could prove to have even catastrophic (if used by terrorists) global consequences for the IoT devices and services we are dreaming about today.

Image Courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Blocks knocking down wall of blocks

27 July 2014
I'm Shocked, Shocked There are Multiple Standards Bodies for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT), predicted to connect billions of devices over the next decade, opens up a world of possibilities, not least a new life for enterprise technology companies who are fighting commoditization. The IoT is sure to bring a renaissance of innovation to the manufacturing ecosystem, from ICs and sensors to networking and smartphones.

However, before the IoT can really take off, there are two major factors that B2B and B2C enterprises would be smart to address. Those factors include standardization and security.

Currently, there are competing standards bodies and consortia (how surprising). These include (in order of founding):

  • AllSeen Alliance (announced via a 10 December 2013 press release), whose initial framework is based on Qualcomm's AllJoyn™ open source project. They appear to be further along than the OIC, in that they continue to add members beyond the 50 original one, as well as offering source code and pre-built SDKs for download. Like the OpenDaylight SDN Consortium, it is being hosted by The Linux Foundation. Members include consumer electronics manufacturers, home appliances manufacturers, service providers, retailers, enterprise technology companies, startups and chipset manufacturers. Premier level members include Haier, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Panasonic, Qualcomm,Sharp, Silicon Image, TP Link and Technicolor. Community members include AT&T Digital Life, Cisco, D-Link, HTC, Sears Brand Management Corporation, Symantec and others. One has to wonder if Cisco is a major driver, since the group uses the term Cisco has coined, "The Internet of Everything." With backing by retail and consumer companies, one would expect fast deployment of IoT solutions if this is the real deal

  • Open Interconnect Consortium (announced via an 8 July 2014 press release), founded by Atmel, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, Samsung and Wind RiverThey claim that their consortium is needed to "address all the necessary requirements" versus "multiple forums driving different approaches to solve the challenge of IoT connectivity and interoperability. The companies involved in OIC believe that secure and reliable device discovery and connectivity is a foundational capability to enable IoT. The companies also believe that a common, interoperable approach is essential, and that both a standard and open source implementation are the best route to enable scale."

  • Google, ARM, Yale Security, Silicon Labs, Samsung Electronics, Nest Labs, Freescale Semiconductor and Big Ass Fans announced, Thread, to develop a new IoT wireless networking protocol for the home in a 15 July 2014 press release.

It will be interesting to watch these competing IoT standardization efforts, measuring them by deliverables, adoption, real openness/interoperability and cooperation vs. PR spin. Am skeptical since standards are often politically driven by the biggest technology elephant, or elephants, in the room, and who, undestandably, often have their proprietary interests at heart. We'll look at security issues in our next blog post.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhoto.net