The ‘Not So Simple’ Truth of the IoT

The ‘Not So Simple’ Truth of the IoT

The Internet of Things is exciting. By connecting machines, objects, agents (aka “things”) via the internet so that systems work more effectively, people will have the information they need to make better decisions and improve their quality of life. Sign me up.

But with such a big promise one thing is clear: the IoT will be anything but simple. The IoT will be more complicated and chaotic than we expect. Innovation and competition will play out across devices, services, apps, platforms, standards, monetization models, geographies and users to name just a few.

The fact is, the IoT is kind of like the pony express was when it was first launched; it worked better than what we had, it underwent a lot of changes, and consumers won while business fortunes rose and fell. It’s anyone’s guess how the IoT will ultimately be used to effectively connect an unbelievably broad range of devices. For example, CellNet, a Silicon Valley darling back in the late 90’s, did “electronic meter reading” before the IoT had any collective consciousness. CellNet has been acquired multiple times, and finally, electronic meter reading is now commonplace. But CellNet struggled for years, and I still don’t have an app that enables me to engage my family in reducing electricity usage. We do have far fewer meter readers.

Last week Nike launched its IoT device, the FuelBand App for Android, to the headline, “Pigs Fly, Still Can’t Put Their Flaps Toward NikeFuel.” But wait – didn’t Nike throw in the towel on its FuelBand device in April of this year, having not achieved its ambitious goals? Is Nike in or out? Or just doing it? Is Nike selling devices, apps or an experience? It’s unclear.

“One thing is clear: the IoT vendors who have clarity of purpose and unprecedented flexibility, agility and speed are going to be more effective at establishing an IoT presence.”

For consumers the IoT is about better; for businesses the IoT is more complicated. Each needs to identify how it will deliver competitive advantage – which may mean more or less consumer choice. For example, I’m still waiting for Sirius XM to offer traffic updates on demand. I don’t want to pay a monthly fee for stuff I don’t use regularly. But is paid-on-demand traffic viable when free traffic maps are available on your smartphone? Or will “distracted driving” laws favor one form of distribution over another? For businesses the IoT is anything but simple, even after the technology challenges.

Apple just launched the HomeKit to connect “home things” including thermostats, door sensors and cameras together. They are one of a myriad of companies vying to be the new standard, and have entered the fight for one or more standard connecting platforms. Prepare yourselves for dizzying competition and rapid innovation.

One thing is clear: the IoT vendors who have clarity of purpose and unprecedented flexibility, agility and speed are going to be more effective at establishing an IoT presence. Why? Because they will be more responsive to the needs and desires of their market and customers. Period.

I recently came across the “Air Quality Egg” which monitors air quality wherever you put it. Great idea, but what happens when I put my “Egg” in a box along with some car exhaust and smoldering leaves? That action would skew the data and therefore skew Air Quality Egg’s learning. So it’s important that companies not only collect the data, but understand what it means to their market now and in the future.

If companies are going to take advantage of the biggest market opportunity we may see in this lifetime, they will need a well-thought-out plan for how and with whom they will compete. They’ll need to decide whether they will compete with the device, the service(s), the app(s), the platform(s), the standard(s), the monetization model(s) or combinations of these.

The simple truth of the IoT is that it isn’t so simple. But it will be big, it will be exciting, and anyone can be a part of it.

Brian James, Sr. Director, Product Marketing | Aria Systems