Though we’ve been in working in connectivity for more than 25 years, never has this corner of the tech sector been more exciting or game-changing than it is now. The build out of 5G networks to support the 55 billion connected devices expected to hit the IoT market by 2025 is just one mindboggling element to consider. The second is that it will take a village – an elaborate ecosystem – to make it all possible and to move us toward more outcomes and business value.
IoT Takes a Village
We talked to more than 25 companies at IoT World in Santa Clara this week and heard several interesting presentations. The resounding theme was “you can’t go it alone.” Attendees and exhibitors all expressed the importance of a strong partner network to bring real value to customers. And, they all want to learn from each other as some industries are further ahead than others. As evidence of this, see the comments from Claire Curry of Bloomberg and Elvira Wallis of SAP Labs from this short video from the event organizers.
Several additional points stood out:
Pilot purgatory is a problem. Christian Olivier, president at Sigfox USA, offered good advice to get out of pilot purgatory, which 70 percent of companies are facing. We related his advice to grocery shopping while hungry – we all know the risk is buying and spending way more than you need. IoT is similar in that you can’t solve for everything at once and succeed. He suggests pinpointing a specific problem to fix – tracking assets when shipped, preventing how weather can impact a crop, avoiding the need to send a technician to fix a billboard. Then, quantify the value of that solution, define a critical set of tactics to address, embed the IoT solution into the business process and set expectations.
Products will become dumber. During a panel on IIoT hosted by James Brehm & Associates, one panelist from Abbott Labs offered a particularly thought-provoking opinion: products will become dumber. This sounds like an oxymoron in an era dominated by the word “smart” – smart lighting, smart appliances, smart cars, smart manufacturing, smart cities. But, his point was 80 percent of products will be software and 20 percent will be physical attributes. Because of this shift, he said the conversations we have will change. Applying this concept to buying a car, rather than talking about the engine and horsepower, the conversation will focus on applications the car has like its self-riding capabilities. We never thought of the future this way, but it makes sense that products will be mere shells, reliant on software and apps to bring them to life.
The IoT Impact
The most promising takeaway of all was how hopeful this market is. Abe Kleinfeld, CEO of GridGain Systems, said it best in this video when he noted this isn’t science fiction. The reality we are living where IoT is digitizing the real world and enabling decisions in real-time is incredible. And, from our standpoint, while it is understandable there are some risks to think through before we see continued progress, one thing is clear: the network and interplay of companies needed to make IoT possible is coming together nicely and the future is brighter than ever.