The IoT Marathon: a Race for 100 billion connected things!

Introduction:

IoT (Internet of Things) is a mega technology trend that could very well be the next big marathon (or ultra marathon)! If the IoT marathon has a good finish, it will not only be an endurance test for legacy systems but will also shape the fate of small and big companies in many different industries.

At the Internet of Things (IoT) World conference May 10-12, 2016 in Santa Clara, CA, the mile markers for IoT were reinforced:

  • 50 billion IoT devices by 2020 and 100 billion by 2025.
  • At 100 billion interconnected things, IoT has the potential to be the largest land grab opportunity of all time.

 

IoT: The Numbers & Opportunities:

There is a frenzy to get in the IoT race and the barrier to entry is low.  That’s largely due to the availability of easy-to-assemble IoT kits and reference designs, MEMs based sensors (some popular ones are Samsung Artik, Intel Galileo, Arduino IoT), multiple LAN and WAN connectivity options, and IoT platforms that can be programmed via vendor specific Applications Program Interfaces (APIs).

Several industry enthusiasts perceive the IoT race as being able to convert anything that can be controlled (with on-off switch or manually configured) to a meaningful IoT device.

Thinking about the IoT impact from a product manager’s point of view, let us take an outside-in approach and ask this question: From the users perspective is there a potential wish-list of things we would want to connect to the Internet? 

To keep things simple, consider a few high-touch things from the users day-to-day usability:

Thing / Device

Usability Impact

Size (in billions)

Garage Door Opener

Medium

0.4

Home Locks

Low

0.5

Light Bulbs

Low

4

TV

High

0.75

Cars

High

0.6

Thermostat

Medium

0.4

Home Camera

Medium

0.5

Fitness Tracker

Medium

1

Smartphones

High

2

 


 

The numbers in the above chart are based on a conservative adoption rate with a presumed 5x to 10x higher adoption in the industrialized world vs. emerging world countries.

Also, depending on how IoT is defined – smart phones might or might not be considered in the IoT umbrella.  A large part of the IoT camp does not consider smartphone as a thing or device given there is a human controlling it. The total above adds to 10 billion+ IoT devices.  One can categorize most of these IoT devices/things in the “Smart Home” market segment.

The IoT scope extends manifolds into industrial verticals, like Healthcare and Smart Cities (helping city planners provide a better quality of life experience).

Aari Jaksi, SVP of Connected Devices at Mozilla, a keynote speaker at the IoT World conference, said that IoT is perceived as primarily applicable to the “Home consumer segment” in Silicon Valley vs. “Industrial Segment” in Europe. He agreed IoT has yet to have a “Killer Application.”           

The pockets with significant impact, like the automotive industry, are seeing a large inflow of long-term capital investment. The end user benefit, business and revenue opportunities are relatively better understood for the automotive segment. Indeed, there was a dedicated section on Connected Cars at the conference and had representation from big brand auto-makers.    

The billions of IoT devices, in any shape, form and application would each need and consume compute, network, and massive amounts of storage.

  • The dominant microprocessor vendors for compute are ARM and Intel.
  • The sheer number of IoT devices and volume of data generated by each device will test the network scale and capacity.
  • Several of these devices will generate continuous stream of data and need an always-on Internet connection.

There are several companies and proposed network solutions  (both in wireless and wireline communication – see Alan Weissberger’s article on IoT PANs/LANs/WANs).

The security, configuration and management aspects for the IoT devices are also sought after market opportunities. The cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform all have specialized solutions for IoT application developers.

Conclusions:

The race to 50/100 billion IoT devices provides several new growth opportunities. There is huge participation in IoT from legacy vendors and start-ups, but there are many unanswered questions and challenges ahead. The IoT racecourse is a work in progress, however several runners would like to see the finish line. What is your IoT strategy?    

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