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Last week at IoT World, I stopped by the Buddy Platform booth (namely because of their killer Lego set-up). 

Buddy provides data hosting and management solutions for manufacturers and vendors of connected ("IoT") devices. With only a handful of lines of code added to any connected device, Buddy claims that they can host the telemetry data generated by these devices in various regions around the world, as well shape and query the data prior to pushing it into any business intelligence (BI) toolset desired. In addition to telemetry management, Buddy enables M2M scenarios by exposing query results on the telemetry stream via real-time RESTful APIs, as well as a messaging mechanism for external control of devices. 

Prior to IoT World, I sent Buddy CEO and Co-Founder Dave McLauchlan a few questions. Here's what he had to say. 

What is the Buddy Platform?

Buddy Platform is a highly secure, cloud-based platform that takes and processes raw data from hundreds of millions of connected devices, appliances and sensors, then makes it accessible in real-time for businesses. The platform has significant capabilities to manage billions of transactions across millions of devices in real time and at a global scale. 

Buddy’s enterprise-ready solution allows organizations to own the data without investing in data infrastructure. In many cases the companies that make devices with the most potential in their device data are not traditional data companies - they make appliances, vehicles, heavy equipment in farming, mining and manufacturing. These organizations are able to speed up their time to market and skip building out an internal data infrastructure team that can be expensive and resource heavy.

In preparation for massive IoT growth in the next decade, Buddy is focused on how internet connected devices can provide enormous amounts of valuable data to improve and enhance insights and actions across industries. From mining, manufacturing, energy and resources to connected cities, our technology can help businesses improve performance, safety, and functionality across operations. 

We are based in Seattle, WA and have an engineering office in Adelaide, South Australia. In December 2015 we listed on the Australian Securities Exchange under the ticker symbol BUD.

Tell us how mobile is the gateway and hub for IoT.

There is a very strong correlation in the consumer IoT space between mobile applications and IoT devices because mobile apps are the control point. You could say an IoT platform isn’t complete without good, strong mobile support. This approach is a main differentiator for Buddy, our system is a platform for Things and Apps, you can see data from both come through your Buddy account and have a more unified view. Given our heritage as a Mobile as a Backend service, and our capabilities now in IoT we are uniquely positioned against others in the space. 

What trends are you seeing in the silicon industry to address IoT?

More and more silicon organizations, companies and manufacturers are looking to get deeper integration with device management through data management, so that when they sell silicon, the data can be deployed and managed for the customer. Increasingly, customers of silicon vendors are looking for solutions that include a robust, scalable and secure cloud platform. We think this trend will continue, and that has already led to great partnerships between Buddy and companies like Marvell and Gimbal. 

Much of the attention in IoT is focused on consumer technologies, but the real action, often unrealized by the average person, is happening in the industrial sector. What are you most excited about in IoT and what can we expect from it? 

IoT is still managing it’s way through an enormous hype cycle and it’s true, things like wearables and home automation garner much of the attention. While these areas are certainly very exciting because they are the most tangible to people, what’s happening in industrial IOT is just as exciting in that it will also be powering great new experiences and services, but as an enabler rather than being front and center on store shelves. We are seeing great opportunity in the energy sector for IoT, and how that translates into business value for utilities, cities and buildings. Everything from solar panels, to automated meters are becoming connected which means governments, real estate managers and homeowners have a better view into how they are using and producing energy. That translates into cost savings, efficiency and increased awareness that can have real impact in the lives of people, and the health of our environment and planet. 

Photo courtesy of David Oro

 

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The technology sector is buzzing with predictions and hype about the Internet of Things (IoT), but many people are still confused about what it means, what the real world opportunities are and why businesses should be looking into IoT.

At a fundamental and simplistic level the Internet of Things refers to 'physical objects which linked via wired or wireless networks'

These physical objects could be anything (such as medical machines, vehicles, building systems, signage, toasters, smoke alarms, temperature sensors, weather monitors, intelligent tags or rubbish bins for example). Almost any object, in any sector, in any location could potentially join the Internet of Things, so its no wonder that Gartner predict there will be 50 billion devices connected by 2020 (and other analysts estimate several orders of magnitude more).  

Typically the Internet of Things is used to gather data and insight, find efficiency, automate tasks or improve an experience or service. At Smarter Technology Solutions (STS) we put this down to a simple formula, with greater insight, comes better decisions.

I know what you're thinking, why would you connect an object like a rubbish bin to the Internet?

Well its a simple example but it has tremendous flow on effects. Simply tracking the fill level of a rubbish bin using a smart sensor, councils and waste providers can find out a few important facts such as fill-level trends, how often the bin really needs emptying and when, to better plan waste collection services (eg timing of bin collection near food outlets to avoid lunchtimes) and to identify areas that may need more/less bins (to assist with city/service planning).
By collecting just the fill level data of a waste bin the following benefits could be attained:

  1. Reduction in cost as less bin collections = less waste trucks on the road, no unnecessary collections for a bin that's 20% full, less labour to complete waste collection. This also provides a level of operational efficiency and optimized processes.
  2. Environmental benefit - where waste is not overflowing and truck usage is reduced, flow on environmental impact, pollution and fuel consumption is minimized. By ensuring waste bins are placed in convenient locations, littering and scattered waste is also minimized.
  3. Service improvements - truck collection routes can be optimized, waste bins can be collected at convenient times and planning of future/additional services can be amended as the data to trend and verify assumptions is available. 

More complex examples of IoT include:

  • Intelligent transport systems which update digital signage on the highway and adjusts the traffic lights in real time to divert traffic, optimise traffic flow and reduce congestion;
  • A farm which uses sensors to measure soil moisture, chemical levels and weather patterns, adjusting the watering and treatment schedules accordingly;
  • The building which draws the blinds to block out the afternoon sun, reducing the need to consume more power cooling the building and to keep the environment comfortable;
  • Health-care devices which monitor patients and auto-alert medical practitioners once certain symptoms or attributes are detected; 
  • Trucks which automatically detect mechanical anomalies and auto schedule themselves in for preventative maintenance once they reach certain thresholds; 
  • Asset tracking of fleet vehicles within a services company which provides operations staff with fleet visibility to quickly dispatch the closest resource to a job based on proximity to the next task;
  • Water/gas/electric meters which sends in their own reading in on a monthly basis and trends analysis which can detect potential water/gas leaks; or
  • A retail store which analyses your in-store behavior or purchasing patterns and recommend products to you based on previous choices and your personal preferences.

At Smarter Technology Solutions we specialize in consulting with organizations  to understand the benefits of IoT, design best fit solutions, engineer and implement solutions as well as supporting the ongoing support needs of the organization. This results in 3 key outcomes:

  • Discovery of New Opportunities - With better visibility, trends, opportunities, correlations and inefficiencies can be understood. From this, products, services and business models can be adjusted or changed to achieve competitive advantage.
  • Improved Efficiency - By identifying inefficiencies in existing business practices, work-flows can be improved and more automated services can be provided.
  • Improved Services - With trends and real time data businesses are able make smarter decisions and alter the way you services are delivered.

www.smartertechnologysolutions.com.au

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The Internet of Things (IoT) concept promises to improve our lives by embedding billions of cheap purpose-built sensors into devices, objects and structures that surround us (appliances, homes, clothing, wearables, vehicles, buildings, healthcare tech, industrial equipment, manufacturing, etc.).

IoT Market Map -- Goldman Sachs

What this means is that billions of sensors, machines and smart devices will simultaneously collect volumes of big data, while processing real-time fast data from almost everything and... almost everyone!!!

IoT vision is not net reality

Simply stated, the Internet of Things is all about the power of connections.

Consumers, for the moment anyway, seem satisfied to have access to gadgets, trendy devices and apps which they believe will make them more efficient (efficient doesn't necessarily mean productive), improve their lives and promote general well-being.

Corporations on the other hand, have a grand vision that convergence of cloud computing, mobility, low-cost sensors, smart devices, ubiquitous networks and fast-data will help them achieve competitive advantages, market dominance, unyielding brand power and shareholder riches.

Global Enterprises (and big venture capital firms) will spend billions on the race for IoT supremacy. These titans of business are chomping at the bit to develop IoT platforms, machine learning algorithms, AI software applications & advanced predictive analytics. The end-game of these initiatives is to deploy IoT platforms on a large scale for;

  • real-time monitoring, control & tracking (retail, autonomous vehicles, digital health, industrial & manufacturing systems, etc.)
  • assessment of consumers, their emotions & buying sentiment,
  • managing smart systems and operational processes,
  • reducing operating costs & increasing efficiencies,
  • predicting outcomes, and equipment failures, and
  • monetization of consumer & commercial big data, etc.

 

IoT reality is still just a vision

No technology vendor (hardware or software), service provider, consulting firm or self-proclaimed expert can fulfill the IoT vision alone.

Recent history with tech hype-cycles has proven time and again that 'industry experts' are not very accurate predicting the future... in life or in business!

Having said this, it only makes sense that fulfilling the promise of IoT demands close collaboration & communication among many stake-holders.

A tech ecosystem is born

IoT & Industrial IoT comprise a rapidly developing tech ecosystem. Momentum is building quickly and will drive sustainable future demand for;

  • low-cost hardware platforms (sensors, smart devices, etc.),
  • a stable base of suppliers, developers, vendors & distribution,
  • interoperability & security (standards, encryption, API's, etc.),
  • local to global telecom & wireless services,
  • edge to cloud networks & data centers,
  • professional services firms (and self-proclaimed experts),
  • global strategic partnerships,
  • education and STEM initiatives, and
  • broad vertical market development.

I'll close with one final thought; "True IoT leaders and visionaries will first ask why, not how..!"

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Guest blog post by Greg Conary. This blog was originally published here

IIoT business

It’s become quite clear that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the future of Industry. By now we’ve well and truly covered the point that IIoT is, in fact, not hype. For end users and OEMs IIoT, cloud and big data analytics are creating very real business opportunities.

IIoT not only enhances the communication between machines and people – it is facilitating the next wave of value-added customized business services. In fact, Gartner is forecasting that by 2020 more than 80% of the IoT supplier revenue will be derived from services. IIoT represents a significant market opportunity for industrial manufacturers to improve their operational productivity and the performance of machines they sell to customers.

Human productivity is also an area that has huge potential for improvement thanks to IIoT-related services. I recently attended an event hosted by theInternational Business Congress (IBC) and heard a figure quoted on “wrench time” for field operators. It said that in a 10 hour shift a worker spends only 2.5 hours of that shift on productive work – work that adds value to the business – the rest of the time is taken by looking for information – probably travelling back and forth to a central maintenance office presumably searching filing cabinets looking for service manuals, along with admin work and various other non-value add tasks. This is a very interesting figure because it means that the worker is only actively productive for 25% of his time!

IIoT from a services standpoint will have several key benefits for our field worker, his boss, the business and its suppliers.

Firstly, technology vendors and suppliers will increasingly be called on to deliver their knowledge and expertise to their customers as a service. This means sites can outsource some of their maintenance. For example a facility that is trying to downsize its staff can rely on its suppliers to monitor critical equipment health via secondary sensors and upload data to the cloud. This can be very useful for complicated high performance machinery because the vendor is, in fact, likely to be the expert in the operation of the equipment. It also means that the business does not need to directly employ a specialised, and highly paid, member of staff to wait around and fix an issue when it arises. Alternatively, if a company does want in house specialists and has multiple sites, they can hire one expert who, through the use of IIoT can, monitor critical equipment at multiple sites.

Secondly, IIoT and related services will improve the efficiency of staff in the field no matter their age or experience level. We refer to this as the augmented operator and it can be illustrated through this simple analogy: if a 55 year old operator walks by a machine that is making a funny noise he may well know from experience exactly what the issue is and how to solve the problem. Contrast that with the new 25 year old operator who, without the aid of mobility devices, has to go back to the maintenance office to look for the manual of the equipment and, when he can’t find it, start ringing around to find someone who is experienced with the equipment. Going forward, the 25 year old will be able to pull the manual and troubleshooting charts up on his mobile device. Some newer equipment even has the capability to flash a dynamic QR code directly on the device allowing the operator to access real time information on the problem the equipment is experiencing, which helps the operator diagnose and solve the issue much more quickly.

Thirdly, on the customer side, IIoT will assist in the management of the maintenance supply chain by making it easier to track spare parts and inventory levels, and simplifying the ordering process. From the vendor side this represents an opportunity to build new service revenue streams by creating such digitized services – including digitized options for ordering manuals and spare parts and putting in place models to monetise the knowledge, advice and best practice of its own employees for greater customer service.

Finally, IIoT services will make the “great crew change” a less scary transition. Similar to my points above on worker efficiency and productivity, as we move from experienced operators to the next generation there are two telling statistics about aging workforce:

  1. 50% of all refinery staff will retire in the next 5 to 7 years[1]
  2. The millennial generation will be the largest generation in the workforce by 2025[2]

So in a short period of time digital natives will make up the majority of the workforce. This means moving from an average workforce age of 50+ to a new guard of 20 somethings who have vastly less experience and very different working practices. Bridging this gap will require digital tools to not only capture the knowledge of older workers before they retire, but also make it available to the new generation in a way that supports their preference for digital work practices – tools such as augmented reality applications, dynamic QR codes and access to easy online support.

What unique services have you developed or experienced with the advent of IIoT?

[1] http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-04-02/news/38218078_1_oil-gas-aging-workforce-hr-manager

[2] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/

About the Author

Greg Conary is Schneider Electric’s Senior Vice President of Strategy. In this role he is responsible for the strategic planning activities for the company’s Industry Business. Greg joined Schneider Electric in 2014 through the acquisition of Invensys. Prior to the acquisition he was the head of global business development for the Invensys systems business and was a leader on the integration of the company with Schneider Electric. In his capacity as head of Business Development, Greg was responsible for developing and executing growth strategies related to licensing, partnerships and distribution agreements around the globe. Throughout his career with Invensys Greg held various positions across the automation business in key account management, strategy, planning, M&A and in the CEO’s office. Prior to joining Invensys, Greg worked for the Ethyl Corporation where he held a series of senior positions in R&D, technical support and global accounts. Greg is a chemist by training and holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. He is a resident of the UK and a dual US and UK national.

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As the platform race continues to mature for the IoT, we found a great post by by Thierry Lillette that looks into the platforms, ecosystems and products. Good reading for any IoT and digital professional. Originally posted here.

These days it feels like any successful company, especially the so-called unicorns (aka private companies with over $1 billion valuation) are not selling a product but leverage a platform.  Beyond the Silicon Valley lingo, there is also a growing body of work in the literature dealing with platform businesses and business ecosystems.

The end of the sustainable competitive advantage

New digital technologies and the relentless focus on core competencies have pushed companies to outsource a lot of their activities, leading to commodization and increased competition. Barriers to entry for copycats are lower than ever, therefore maintaining differentiation over a long period of time is now virtually impossible, despite trademarks or patents. Note that this phenomenon goes beyond what happens online: it is not uncommon to find clothes inspired by the latest fashion week in Zara or H&M stores before the actual designers are able to sell their original products. 

Speed of execution is increasingly the only way to stay ahead of competition. This has some drawbacks, such as the focus on being first to market and getting scale over monetization or profitability (from Twitter to Xiaomi), and sometimes leaves the impression that you are offered a beta product that has been rushed to market. Digital products can improve daily from their Minimum Viable Productstatus,  but many Kickstarter or IndieGoGo supporters end up disappointed with what they get.

Today's unicorns are platforms, not products

To work around these limitation and remain competitive against low cost me-too products, companies of all sizes are all about platforms and no longer standalone products. Value gets now created through stickiness of a platform rather than differentiated products. The equity of a brand is increasingly equivalent to the value of its ecosystem.

What is a platform ? In a platform approach a company's  product operates as a facilitator and large part of the value is created by the participants instead of the company itself, which can be Facebook users, Uber drivers or makers of Apple-compatible accessories. 

Again, nothing really new here as Tupperware or Avon sales have been operating this way for decades, the PC industry has thrived around the Wintel ecosystem, and Android and iOS have won the mobile OS war with their ability to attract and keep developers on their platforms rather than BlackBerry or Windows Mobile.

What is new though is that the platform approach have become the standard  practice in the digital B2C space to compete for companies aiming to disrupt (another popular buzzword)  the market, or create a new one.

Some of the most famous examples can be found in eCommerce (Amazon, Flipkart or Alibaba) or in  messaging/social media (from Facebook to YouTube, Tencent or Snapchat). Online marketplaces such as Uber and AirBnB are currently some of the most prominent examples, getting as popular and powerful as Apple or Android.

Third party players: Ecosystems and Network Effects

  •  A prerequisite for a successful platform is the ability for a company to build a value proposition around an ecosystem and not only its own products. This means convince 3rd party companies to join and share value with them. In software this is usually done by publishing public APIs. Arguably, the most successful ecosystem is the one orchestrated by Apple, where you don't only buy  an iPhone, you get into the Apple ecosystem of hardware, content and services.


In the mobile apps space, countless developers write apps for iOS and Android. Apple and Google provide the API, maintain the appstore and give back 70% of the revenue to the developers.  Hence a platform can benefit but also become highly dependant on innovations developed by other firms. 

"No single company can replicate all the innovative capabilities of the market."   
Annabelle Gawer
  • Another  key component of platform is the ability to leverage network effects. For a thorough  introduction to network effects and asymetric business models, I highly recommend the comprehensive slidedeck by Anu Hariharan at Andreesen Horowitz.   In short, network effects happen is product or a service value increase exponentially as the number of users goes up. Long time ago it was the telephone line, then the fax machine and more recently Facebook

The key challenge of course is that in order to enter the virtuous circle of Metcalfe's law, a classic 'chicken and egg' problem must be solved first. Why should you install a telephone line if nobody you know has one ?  In addition building a desirable product, "Growth hacking" is therefore a key activity for start ups: reaching critical mass is the necessary extension to first mover advantage and is usually seen as more important than effective monetization. That approach is sustainable in the digital domain as cloud services make it easy to scale to impressive level on the cheap: Whatsapp was able to serve 450 million customers with only 32 engineers, and Groupon or Living Social operating cost issues are only due to their huge needs for sales reps.  

Only for digital start ups ? 

 However the trend towards platform also affects hardware companies. A vast majority on the start ups in the chart below from 2014 were pitching a platform, especially the most valued ones. A notable exception in the list is GoPro, and it currently pays the price of being a one-trick pony with slowing sales and lack of stickiness despite a powerful brand.  

Literally everyone in the consumer electronics space is trying to replicate the successful model developed by Apple. For example Samsung acquired the smart home platform SmartThings and is developing services like Samsung Pay and LG recently introduced the G5 modular phone. Obviously investments are much higher than for a digital start up, and efforts can take years to materialize.

 Platform 101

In Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You, Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Choudary explain that moving from a traditional 'pipeline' model  to a platform involves three key shifts, which are quite suitable for agile start ups.

  1. Main activity moves from the control of limited resources (raw materials, equipments...) to an orchestration of intellectual property and  interactions of the community of users and partners
  2. Efficiency does not come from optimization of internal processes (e.g. production yield) but through the ability to increase (external) network effects via the ecosystem.
  3. Value is contained by the whole ecosystem rather than individual products

 

More than a buzzword, the new normal for products

Platforms are not only the latest Silicon Valley fad for building unicorns, but they have become the new normal to build and sustain a strategic advantage. In markets where it is increasingly fast and easy for competitors to duplicate innovative products, often at lower cost, building and maintaining platform is arguable the best way to fend off competition. Like it or not, it is time to adjust to this new paradigm where even a great product cannot be successful for very long in isolation.., 

Note: views expressed here are those of the author, Thierry Little.

About the Author

Thierry Lillette has over 15 years of experience across wireless technologies and Consumer Electronics devices with a unique blend of business acumen and technical savvy and a passion for breakthrough products that will ship in millions and delight customers. Defined and launched multiple high-volume and award-winning portable devices, including mobile phones, GPS navigation devices (PND),clean energy and now focussing on the connectivity chips that make all these products smart and useful. Experience in managing all steps of product life cycle and handling multiple branding / route to market combinations to deliver strong business results while delighting users on a global scale.  Thriving in multicultural / international environments and interested in global opportunities in upstream product management & business development in the high-tech / consumer electronics or telecoms sector.

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IBM Update: IOT Transformation on Track?

There have been some interesting developments for Big Blue in the IOT space recently. Last time we reported on them, we were monitoring analysts’ worries about the semiconductor business and other divestures late last year. This year, it seems clear IBM is poised to create even more profitable opportunities in our IOT space. Let’s check in and see where they are.

Healthcare connectivity key to IOT growth

The healthcare giant, Pfizer, recently contracted with IBM to create IOT solutions for clinical trials. In a recent news article, the two have teamed up to create one of the first completely connected clinical trial environment for Pfizer’s Parkinson’s Disease medication.

For enterprise connectivity, Big Pharma has long turned to IBM for its enterprise software used in manufacturing, for finance and accounting and, of course, as an outsourced service desk delivery provider. The move to clinical uses of IBM expertise is not that much of a stretch—and cross-selling to this industry will get easier and easier as use cases -- such as the Parkinson’s trial -- gain traction.

In the meantime, to prepare for a 2019 launch of this experimental drug, Pfizer and IBM are setting up a “connected house” in Yorktown Heights, NY. About 200 people will live there, with IBM and Pfizer tracking them throughout their days (and, presumably) nights. This control group will help the team test the premise—and also will yield much valuable data for IBM to expand into similar uses for “connected houses.”

Stock recovering mightily- thanks to the Cloud

March saw IBM stock rebounding from lows late last year, largely due to a Morgan Stanley rating that took into account the company’s growth opportunities in the IOT. After experiencing fifteen months of declining revenue, it seems that March’s bounce-back reflects mostly IBM’s perceived power in the cloud.

“Although Amazon (AMZN) continues to lead overall in the cloud space, within the private and hybrid cloud space, IBM looks to be out front. Katy Huberty, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, believes that the market has, in fact, “underappreciated” IBM’s growth potential, as reflected by its share prices.”

The turnaround is related to IBM’s investment in “strategic imperatives… in cloud, analytics, mobile, social, and security technologies” with “IBM’s total cloud revenue (growing by) 57% on a year-over-year basis to $10.2 billion.” Analysts watching this movement will continue to upgrade the stock—and companies looking to invest in gamechanging cloud technologies to gain competitive advantage—will sit up and take notice, as well.

SAP partnership in Cloud computing allows companies to “dip a toe into the IOT”

When we talk about the IOT among ourselves, chances are we are operating from a set of assumptions that the general business community does not share. Everyone sees the opportunity. But some companies don’t have a clear path to leveraging it. Enter an IBM-SAP cloud partnership.

This partnership will allow businesses who want to “dip a toe” into IOT technologies continue to use classic, SAP enterprise infrastructure while introducing cloud-based services over time. The IOT investment might gain sign-off more quickly if the SAP-IBM partnership allows decision-makers to trust their providers more—and which companies are more ensconced in corporate IT than SAP and IBM?

“SAP’s collaboration with the 104-year-old tech giant appeals to established companies that have shied away from outsourcing operations or want use a combination of their own data centers and those in the cloud.”

First Quarter IOT Champs?

So what’s going to happen on April 18, when IBM is scheduled to report 1st Quarter earnings? That depends on who you talk to. Goldman Sachs is maintaining a neutral rating—and the stock is generally thought to be overvalued by about $3 to $10—once again, depending on who you talk to.

As we started out saying, IBM’s focus on healthcare is seen to be its “white knight” in this regard. Using its Watson capabilities, IBM is actively searching for hospital and pharmaceutical partners in oncology, in particular, to build a Watson-based information repository which will “deliver…quick access to the top-tier cancer care exclusive to MSK oncologists, enabling them to provide elite cancer treatment to their patients anywhere in the world.” Using Watson technologies to fine-tune offerings in the IOT, particularly in healthcare, seems to be IBM’s “ticket to ride” for IOT opportunities in the future.

Leveraging its global headquarters for Watson Internet of Things (IoT) in Munich, Germany will be key to IBM’s IOT momentum, as well. Their focus since the center opened in December of 2015 has been on “launching a series of new offerings, capabilities and ecosystem partners designed to extend the power of cognitive computing to the billions of connected devices, sensors and systems that comprise the IoT.” This strategy will play out to its fullest later this year and in the next five years, as the company solidifies its leadership role in the IOT space.

Stay tuned to these pages for more on the players in IOT, or give me a call with IOT recruiting needs. An IOT-enabled CIO responsible for M2M and manufacturing connectivity? Check out our latest article on the IOT-powered ride you’re in for in 2016.

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The education system used to have two streams. Bright students went to schools of higher learning – universities and colleges, where, among other things, they learned how to design stuff. So-so students were filtered into professional schools, where they became plumbers, carpenters, and factory machinists. In other words, these “average” students became the makers of things. This dual educational stream – creators and makers – has served the society well.

Things changed around the 80s. Professional schools started to change their names into “universities”, readjusting their curriculum, and generally trying to look “higher end” than they really were. This coincided, of course, with the wave of job outsourcing to Asia and the resulting loss of factory jobs. Many traditional jobs fell out of fashion. At the same time, there was a tremendous uptick in people choosing the legal profession, banking, and finance.

The unfortunate outcome was that the number of people who could “hold a screwdriver” has decreased dramatically, while the numbers of “lawyers” skyrocketed. The plumber/lawyer ratio – how about creating an official worldwide index with this name? – has plunged to unhealthy lows, so much so that even in manufacturing countries like Germany even the largest and the most powerful manufacturers, such as Mercedes Benz, have difficulties filling their vacancies.

Fortunately, things are changing. Manufacturing is starting to return home. Making stuff is cool again. The DIY movement, which in many countries consists of people who don’t extract the satisfaction of making things from their day jobs, is flourishing. The education system is finally taking note.

Around the world, governments and educators are proclaiming that they will teach their young to be coders and makers of things. To assist them in this task, companies big and small have come up with innovative, low-cost computing, programming, and building platforms. Raspberry Pi. BeagleBone. LittleBits. Kano. These are the signs of changing times. Some innovative educational solutions focus on just teaching coding skills. Some go further and teach kids how to “work with their hands” and build electronic and mechatronic devices, such as robots.

One significant factor in choosing the right educational equipment or platform is the time limit available for each building exercise. In schools, one class period typically lasts between 40 and 60 minutes. Consider what has to be accomplished within this time frame: A student is supposed to grasp the objective first, assemble the hardware from available “building blocks” next, and maybe even write some code to finish the assignment. Not surprisingly, the quality and the ease of use of the “building blocks” selected by the school will greatly affect the student’s ability to accomplish his or her task or come up with creative ideas. If code writing is in order, the choice of the programming platform and language will greatly affect the student’s efficiency.

One interesting hardware and software platform holding a great education value is Tibbo Project System created by Tibbo Technology. The platform is based on colorful I/O blocks called Tibbits. Around 50 different Tibbits are available presently, and Tibbo is constantly expanding the list. Tibbits plug into a mainboard carrying a CPU and an Ethernet interface. This mainboard is programmable in Tibbo BASIC or Tibbo C – high-level, object-oriented languages that greatly simplify and speed up application development.

One other strong suit of the TPS is built-in TCP/IP networking. TCP/IP stacks are the foundation of modern communications and the Internet of Things (IOT). By creating simple Tibbo BASIC/C applications, some of them no longer than 30-40 lines of code, students are able to observe TCP/IP and other networking protocols in action and learn their inner workings – all within the time constrains of the school period.

No matter what educational platform becomes dominant, it is obvious that education around the world is making a tectonic shift towards training students in matters of programming and electronics. Of course, these efforts may yet prove to be of the “too little, too late” kind. This wouldn’t be the first time our education prepared us for the world of yesterday. It may well turn out that by the time current primary school students enter the adult life the tech landscape will have changed beyond recognition. Even in this case, educating students in tech subjects will give them a big hand in preparing for whatever comes next. Our society cannot survive on the current plumber/lawyer ratio. It’s time to change this number.

Originally posted on Data Science Central

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Can we use HTTP for IoT

Irrespective of how people and companies view IoT, everybody agrees that it will dwarf the internet we see today in very near future. Industry estimates that there will around 50 billion connected devices by 2020. With so many connected devices talking among themselves we need very robust protocols which will work in the real world

 

HTTP is the workhorse of the world wide web. Its the common standard according to which all the browsers communicate with all the servers. Can devices use HTTP for communication?

 

Usually HTTP runs on the top of TCP and has a big header

A bare minimum GET request for HTTP 1.1 is

 

GET / HTTP/1.1

Host: www.example.com

 

The above request fetches the resource at ‘/’. Each new line character is 2 bytes long (CRLF) and the last line should be a new line character, so there is an overhead of 25 characters to fetch a single resource

 

The minimal reply is also similarly long, its

 

HTTP/1.1 200 OK

Content-Length: 1

Content-Type: text/plain

 

a

 

thats for replaying with a single character ‘a’. That is an overhead on 64 characters.

 

Each extra byte that needs to be transmitted incurs a cost on the battery life which is a very precious commodity for embedded devices

 

We have to keep in mind that all the data is passed as clear text without any encryption across the channel, HTTPS is used is used to overcome the problem of security but this adds another overhead of the SSL/TLS channel, handshake and certificate examination.

 

In the real world scenario where the communication channels and often unreliable and bandwidths limited, this much overhead is too much of a baggage.

 

Apart from that, HTTP essentially works under request response model, where clients can only push data to a server and there is no way for the server to connect back to the client unless the client also implements the server. This is an excellent way to get data from many and not the best when you want one to many communication moreover it would be impossible for a remote sensor to be aware of the events in real time.

So HTTP clearly cannot be used used and we need a protocol which is more suited for IoT.

 

Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) is one such protocol which is designed for the constrained devices. The protocol extensively uses bit fields and mappings from strings to integers to reduce the number of bytes, moreover packets are easy to generate and can be parsed easily. It lets the clients get the updates in realtime by extending the HTTP request model and adding the ability to observe a resource.

 

CoRE, the group which designed the protocol has also defined mapping of CoAP with HTTP, this makes it easier to build proxies which will give access to CoAP resources via HTTP.

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The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) has been at the forefront of helping build consumer confidence in the technology products that have helped remake our day. So, it was no surprise it moved to create a set of guidelines around the products and services that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

That framework took another step forward this month when the OTA released its Trust Framework of 30 recommendations for consumer-facing IoT companies seeking to build out this network of connected devices.

At first blush, the list of recommendations seems complete, but a longer look suggest is may be both too long and not long enough.

Too long because any list of 30 “must-haves” becomes more a barrier to entry than a glide path to market share. Too short because the biggest danger to consumer privacy, security and trust is a product no longer supported by a company that has moved on or shut down.

Too long? Rather than seek to create a granular set of prescriptive recommendations, it would be better to focus on a shorter and more effective set of requirements. I count five: encryption, authentication, fault tolerance, security and user control to review, change or delete. The ability to easily integrate and interoperate might be a sixth, but the market for consumer IoT is not so mature as to make that necessary – just yet. 

Too short? The biggest dangers to consumers are IoT products no longer supported, either because it didn’t gain traction or the company has ceased to operate. It does not take long for a technology product to develop security holes if upgrades are not made. These holes are the source of the greatest vulnerability for the growth of the IoT market.

The OTA framework doesn’t answer all the questions raised by the expansion of the IoT, but it ought to be a real conversation starter – both for consumers and industry.

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TSN: The time is now

The Evolving Time Sensitive Networking Standard for the Industrial IoT

As awareness surrounding IoT standardization continues to grow, more eyes are being drawn to interoperability and network infrastructure solutions, including Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). A standard from the IEEE 802 committee, TSN looks to solve the need to process raw data in a time critical fashion in addition to reducing latency and increasing robustness. To support new capabilities of IoT-enabled infrastructure, designers, engineers, and end-users need to rely on time synchronized and reliable networking.

Formerly known as Audio Video Bridging (AVB), TSN soon shifted its name as industrial companies realized the advantages for time sensitive applications in their space. Standard Ethernet continues to expand its range, functionality and applications with the evolution of the AVB standard into TSN. The new capabilities of TSN provide the Industrial community with the ability to use standard Ethernet to support highly reliable and precise synchronized networking appropriate for industrial control. 

The AVnu Alliance, an industry consortium driving open, standards-based deterministic networking, in addition to advancements made to TSN, are working with member companies like Cisco, General Electric, National Instruments and more to drive this next-generation standard and create an interoperable ecosystem through certification. Members are working within the Alliance to develop the foundational elements needed for industrial applications, based on the common elements of AVB/TSN.

“TSN promises through standard silicon to converge the previously disparate technologies needed for standard Ethernet communication, for deterministic high speed data transfer, and for high accuracy time synchronization. These developments will create a common foundation that will impact numerous applications and markets ranging from machine control and asset monitoring to test cells and vehicle control.  Key technology and equipment providers to the industrial market are supporting the effort. National Instruments is happy to collaborate within the solid ecosystem that AVnu Alliance is building,” said Mike Santori, Vice President, Product Marketing, National Instruments.

The TSN standard bids several benefits over today’s commonly used Ethernet protocols. For example, Ethernet derivatives used for industrial control today limit themselves to 100 MB of bandwidth and half-duplex communication while TSN offers much higher bandwidth options including 1 GB or 10 GM with a potential 400 GB in the future. As for security, TSN protects critical control traffic while simultaneously incorporating high-level IT security necessities. In addition to a more secure network, TSN also ensures reliable delivery of time-critical traffic and seamlessly integrates with existing applications as well as standard IT traffic to strengthen interoperability.

The Future Will Arrive on Time

The IEEE 802.1 Time-Sensitive Networking Task Group and the AVnu™ Alliance are hard at work to finalize the standards. Portions of the standard and working references from vendors will begin to appear in 2016. You can learn more about the details of this work at: http://www.ieee802.org and www.avnu.org.

As IIoT adoption continues, increased amounts of data and widely distributed networks will require new standards for sharing and transferring critical information. Just as an ambulance or fire engine receives priority among other traffic during an emergency, the TSN standard ensures that critical, time-sensitive data is delivered on time over standard network infrastructure. Welcome to life in the fast lane with the IIoT.

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IoT Central Company Spotlight - ThingWorx

What’s exciting about any new tech trend is that there is often a groundswell of start-ups out to create new products and services. Combine that with established companies also making investments and you have a dynamic new industry that is full of booms, busts and opportunity.

To help sort this out, we’re starting something new at IoT Central - the company spotlight. Up first is ThingWorx, a company that I keep coming across. The owners of ThingWorx is a PTC, a publicly listed company that employs nearly 6,000 people worldwide, serving more than 28,000 businesses and has approximately $1.3 billion in annual revenue. PTC has its roots in product lifecycle management and has recently taken on the IoT mantra.

Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, said recently, "IoT gives us connectivity during the product's longest life cycle. First, things are products, which we could call the Internet of Products (IoP). Secondly, we want to serve these products better, and we can only do that by knowing what is going on. Lastly, we want to engineer products better. IoT really is PLM, putting the product at the centre of PLM. We are reinventing PLM."

Enter ThingWorx, which PTC acquired in December 2013. According to the company, ThingWorx is an IoT platform designed to build and run IoT applications, and enable customers to transform their products and services, innovate and unlock new business models. The idea behind the platform is to reduce the time, cost, and risk required to connect, manage, and develop applications for smart, connected products such as predictive maintenance, system monitoring, and usage-based product design requirements.

ThingWorx solutions include tools from Axeda, another PTC acquisition that allows developers to securely connect machines and sensors to the cloud.

So What Thing Works?

About ThingWorx

ThingWorx offers three products:

  • ThingWorx IoT Platform - provides a complete application design, runtime, and intelligence environment.

  • ThingWorx Machine Learning - brings advanced and predictive analytics capabilities for ThingWorx developers.

  • ThingWorx Marketplace - brings together hardware and software vendors with IoT app developers and solution providers within an online exchange.

ThingWorx IoT Platform is the flagship product and is composed of:

  • ThingWorx Composer:  An end-to-end application modeling environment for building applications. Allows you to model the things, business logic, visualization, data storage, collaboration, and security required for an IoT application.
  • Codeless Mashup Builder: A “drag and drop” solution to rapidly create rich, interactive IoT applications, real-time dashboards, collaborative workspaces and mobile interfaces without the need for coding.
  • Event-Driven Execution and 3D Storage Engine: To make business sense of the massive amounts of data from people, systems and connected “things.”
  • Search-Based Intelligence: This so-called SQUEAL (Search, Query, and Analysis) brings search to the world of connected devices and distributed data.
  • Dynamic Collaboration: This sounds like Slack for PLM and IoT. It’s a module that virtually brings together people, systems, and connected equipment and utilizes live collaboration sessions.
  • Business Process Management: Enables automation and orchestration of events, processes and communication across physical things, business systems and people.
  • Thing Management: A portfolio of standard and advanced capabilities to monitor, interact with and update connected things.
  • Digital-Physical Integration Hub: Provides an integration framework for both physical and digital information.  
  • Administration: A console for role based access for business and system administrators and developers.

If you have any experience with ThingWorx, feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have any suggestions for future spotlights, please comment and I’ll add it to my queue. We’d love to hear from you. 

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The Internet of Things encompasses a wide range of connected services, technologies, and hardware devices. Yet, for consumers, it is the growing number of portable and wearable devices that will be their main interface with IOT tech. The wearable device market is rapidly evolving, especially when it comes to smart watches and fitness monitoring devices.

As opportunities grow, the wearables dominating the market are also changing. What does this mean for those involved in the development, marketing, and sales of these IOT connected devices?

 How Big is the Wearable Market in 2015?

International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted that wearable device shipments in 2015 will rise to 173% of the total sales achieved in the previous financial year. This translates to over 72 million devices, including smartwatches and health trackers. This growth has been largely driven by high profile releases such as the Apple Watch in April of 2015, and also by widely publicized financial opportunities, Fitbit’s recent IPO being a prime example.

With the potential to move over 72 million units across the market, it is no surprise that leading technology companies like LG, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and Motorola are starting to increase their focus on wearable technology.

When we look closer at the marketplace, we see a strong mix of upstart companies and traditional players, with Fitbit, Garmin, and Xiaomi all new entrants. This blend of "old" technology giants and very new companies is promising - the marketplace is growing rapidly, and opportunity actually exists.

Future growth will be an incentive for further investment. IDC figures suggest that by 2019, global sales of wearables could exceed 150 million units. The market is open completely, with any company able to take a device to market open to growth.

Do these figures mean success for all involved in the wearable market? Not entirely.

Challenges for Businesses to Adapt

Although the overall market has grown, recent trends show that wearable fitness devices are losing out to increased smartwatch sales. Gartner’s latest research suggests that the dip could largely be associated with the increasing crossover in functionality between fitness devices and the latest smartwatches. 50 percent of those seeking a fitness wearable will end up choosing a smartwatch instead, and brands do not necessarily know why this shift is happening.

I think that one feature overlap is contributing to this. Fitness devices chiefly collect information relating to distance covered, physical location, and heath, including heart rate. Nearly every smartwatch on the market today can do all of this, and more. For a savvy consumer, combining a Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch with a high-end Galaxy Note 4 or Galaxy S6 would provide GPS tracking, information on calories burnt, heart rate monitoring, and even blood oxygen levels. The technology is advancing year on year, and it is clear that the innovation gap is already closing.

There are two consequences I see with this lack of clear differentiation. The first is that fitness-focused products need to innovate or die. With the market contracting by supporting multi-feature devices over purpose-built tools, the new goal should be for innovation to differentiate. Put simply, the fitness trackers of the world need to do something that smartwatches cannot.

The second consequence is that companies like Fitbit and Nike, which are focused on fitness tracking, will need to lower prices to compete with integrated smartwatches. When a consumer is faced with a $120 fitness tracker and a $200 smartwatch with phone connectivity, alerts, and apps, the choice becomes very one-sided. Yet, the bottom of the market, and the sector more likely to actually increase sales of purpose-built trackers, is relatively unsaturated. 

Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike make up 97% of the wearable fitness device market. In smartwatch territory, it is Samsung and Apple that lead the market. Looking at one of the least expensive fitness trackers, Fitbit's Zip, we see a $60 base price point. Even at this level, the casual user has to pause and think - their phone already does much or all of what the Zip does, and a waterproof fitness case is cheaper. Fitbit, in this case, needs either to more fundamentally differentiate or drop its pricepoint.

Where is the Money in Wearables?

Even with staggering sales numbers, wearables are not in themselves a key revenue stream. Instead, it is the associated value that provides the biggest benefit to manufacturers.

Smartwatches, in particular, are seen as accessories. They are paired to smartphones and in turn can help to drive sales. They are also showpiece items. Even if Samsung, Apple, Sony etc. only manage to sell wearable technology to 10% of their smartphone customers (a speculative number), they will generate brand marketability, and logically would experience knock-on sales.

When it comes to companies like Nike, Fitbit, and Jawbone, the profit can come from connected services. Examples include subscription based exercise plans, analytics software, and in the case of Nike, a wearable can lead to increased apparel sales.

Still, there is an incredible gap for new entrants to the market. Apple and Samsung can rely on a massive pool of existing customers, and directly integrate their offerings into that group. Fitbit cannot, with no "hub" devices on the market. Even subscription-based models cannot make up for the gap. This makes the marketplace incredibly hard to predict going forward - nothing prevents a company like Samsung from releasing another mid-range watch and completely dividing the market. 

As with all IOT technology, the wearable device is only one part of the experience, and therefore only one part of the business model. It is the way in which data is collected, analyzed, and presented that provides the true value of any smart device. Smartwatches already have an advantage because they are highly integrated into their respective smartphone operating systems. Wearable fitness device companies have the opportunity to provide fitness tracking as a service, and must find new ways to monetize the service to generate direct revenue on top of initial hardware sales.

What does the Future Hold For Wearable Technology?

Over a billion smartphones were sold around the world in 2014. Global wearable sales make up less than 10% of that number. The challenge for manufacturers is to develop wearables that easily integrate with daily life that also are something that consumers want to use on a daily basis.

While wearables are high in consumer mindshare, they are relatively low in actual penetration. Smartwatches are now able to integrate a fitness device with a smart device in a way that is both compelling and practical, but is it enough? Those in the industry will need the best ideas, the best strategies, and the best talent to ensure that in-demand products are developed in line with business goals, and that they result in strong financial growth.

 

When considering how to hire leadership for the emerging Internet of Things market, keeping these consideration in mind is critical.I can help guide your choices, find the best candidates, and bring IoT experience to your company. Contact me today for a consultation.

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Do You Believe the Hype?

I’m guilty of hype.

As a communications consultant toiling away at public relations, media relations and corporate communications, I’ve had my fair share of businesses and products that I’ve helped get more attention than it probably deserved. Indeed, when it comes to over-hyping anything, it’s guys like me and my friends in the media who often take it too far.

Recently though, I came across an unlikely source of hype - the McKinsey Global Institute.

In a June 2015 report that I’m now reading, McKinsey states, “The Internet of Things—digitizing the physical world—has received enormous attention. In this research, the McKinsey Global Institute set to look beyond the hype to understand exactly how IoT technology can create real economic value. Our central finding is that the hype may actually understate the full potential of the Internet of Things…” (emphasis is mine).

If McKinsey is hyping something, should we believe it?

Their report, “The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype”, does point out that “capturing the maximum benefits will require an understanding of where real value can be created and successfully addressing a set of systems issues, including interoperability.”

I think this is where the race is today - finding the platforms for interoperability, compiling data sources, building security into the system and developing the apps that deliver true value. We have a long way to go, but investment and innovation is only growing.

If done right the hype just may be understated. McKinsey finds that IoT has a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025. They state with consumer surplus, this would be equivalent to about 11 percent of the world economy!

Do you believe the hype?

 

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List of IoT Platforms

IoT platforms make the developer’s life easier by offering some independent functionality which can be used by the applications they write to achieve their objective. Saving them from the task of reinventing the wheel. Given here is a list of useful IoT platforms.

 

Kaa

Kaa is a flexible open source platform licenced under Apache 2.0 for building, managing, and integrating connected software in IoT. Kaa’s “data schema” definition language provides a universal level of abstraction to achieve cross-vendor product interoperability. Kaa supports multiple client platforms by offering endpoint SDKs in various programming languages. In addition, Kaa’s powerful back-end functionality greatly speeds up product development, allowing vendors to concentrate on maximizing their product’s unique value to the consumer.

 

Axeda

The Axeda Platform is a complete M2M and IoT data integration and application development platform with infrastructure delivered as a cloud-based service.

 

Arrayent

The Arrayent Connect Platform is an IoT platform that helps to connect products to smartphones and web applications. It comes with an an agent which helps the embedded devices to connect to cloud, A cloud based IoT operating system, A mobile framework and a business intelligence reporting system

 

Carriots

Carriots is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) designed for Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) projects. It provides tools to Collect & store data from devices, SDK to build powerful applications, deploy and scale from tiny prototypes to thousands of devices

 

Xively

Xively offers an enterprise IoT platform which helps in connecting products and users, manage the information and an interface to for product deployment and health check

 

ThingSpeak

ThingSpeak is an open source Internet of Things application and API to store and retrieve data from things using the HTTP protocol over the Internet or via a Local Area Network. ThingSpeak enables the creation of sensor logging applications, location tracking applications, and a social network of things with status updates

 

The Intel® IoT Platform

The Intel® IoT Platform is an end-to-end reference model and family of products from Intel, that works with third party solutions to provide a foundation for seamlessly and securely connecting devices, delivering trusted data to the cloud, and delivering value through analytics.

A votable & rankable list of these platform can be found at Vozag

 
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