The 'Internet of Things'

Esmeralda Swartz

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Internet of Things Is Here, Now What? By @MetraTech | @ThingsExpo [#IoT]

The giants are beginning to place their bets to attract and retain users for IoT services

Every year, the technology industry gathers at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to see the latest gadgets ranging from home appliances, TVs, wearables, games, cars, etc. We have all come to expect the unveiling of cutting-edge technology that according to the rhetoric of their manufacturers make our lives just a little bit better. Technology has become so embedded in our daily lives that we can use it to outsource common tasks such as home management, personal fitness and family communications.

The CES show is always a smorgasbord of cool consumer gadgets, but this year it was all about the Internet of Things (IoT). Science fiction has become reality as things that previously only existed in the creative minds of Hollywood writers make their way into our life at home, at the office and in the car. The IoT provides the infrastructure, applications and data to turn inanimate things into intelligent devices capable of intelligent action. Just like the industrial revolution, IoT brings together communications networks, machinery to automate everyday tasks and processes along with a desire to transform society and reshape the global economy, creating the IoT revolution. Market researcher IDC predicts that the worldwide market for Internet of Things solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.

Although this year's CES show stayed true to form by unveiling the latest flashy things, there was another important thread interwoven throughout the various presentations - equal attention was paid to the gadgets as was the value that will be unleashed when things talk and share data. This also comes with an acknowledgement that a revolution can't be won if it is fought alone. As various manufacturers release their devices into the market, a growing number of disparate sensors will need to talk to one another through an open architecture and standards. If things cannot exchange data, correlate the data, they cannot take action on behalf of the human participants.

CES highlights included:

  1. Consumer electronics powerhouse Samsung indicated that while 2015 marked a big year for Samsung in Internet of Things, the company predicts that by 2017, 90 percent of Samsung's products will be "IoT devices." In five years, 100 percent of Samsung hardware will be IoT-enabled.
  2. LG, the appliance giant, shared its vision of a "better and more beautiful future" where every LG device interacts to transform the home environment. LG forecast a future where its HomeChat platform enables the LG smartwatch to sense that you're not sleeping well, inform your LG audio system to play soothing music, tell your LG air conditioner to reduce the temperature, and communicate to your LG air purifier and humidifier to pump soothing scented mist into the room. Not to be outdone, the LG coffeemaker prepares the morning coffee, while the LG smartphone transmits your schedule to the LG-enabled car, guiding you directly to the first appointment of the day.
  3. Philips showcased its intelligent lightbulbs, the Philips Hue bulb, which enables its owner to control the color and intensity through a smartphone.
  4. Cars took over for the driver while becoming the new supercomputer. Nvidia introduced a computer for the infotainment dashboard and another for the self-driving car that demonstrate how far we have come. The Tegra X1 processor can process data at 2.3 teraflops, 2x the computing power of the most powerful supercomputer in the world in 2000. This year car manufacturers like Audi and Mercedes showcased self-driving cars alongside sophisticated dashboards. BMW partnered with chip maker Nvidia to demonstrate how a car could find its own parking space and return to you when the owner is ready. Facebook showcased a mock-up display of the Mobi/us autonomous dashboard by Valeo, for interacting with a self-driving car and a smartphone.
  5. The security industry was represented by August Smart Lock, enabling doors to be dead bolted through the smartphone. The smart Canary camera also sounds the alarm if an intruder attempts entry while taking a picture of the trespasser.
  6. Doting parents also got a preview of the Slow Control smart baby bottle. The smart baby bottle holder helps parents track how much and how fast their baby is drinking, in addition to feedback on how to hold the baby properly to prevent the baby from swallowing air. And for older tots, HereO children's watches come equipped with GPS to enable parents to always locate their children through an app.
  7. Fitness and virtual reality came together with the Omni virtual treadmill by Virtuix (a competitor to Facebook Oculus Rift). A curved surface and special shoes allow the user to walk in place and a sensor creates a virtual reality game by transforming the forward movement.
  8. For the outdoor sports enthusiast, Cerevo SNOW-1 snowboard binding comes equipped with Bluetooth and sensors to take data and measure it in real time while using the snowboard, thus providing the rider the ability to analyze his performance.
  9. Nest has evolved from its smart thermostat to focus on the "Works with Nest" developer platform and announced collaborations with a dozen companies including Whirlpool. Meanwhile Nest acquirer Google introduced Google Cast for audio, a service to stream music to home audio systems through a smartphone. Cast enables users to send music to their home speakers from their mobile phones.

The giants are beginning to place their bets to attract and retain users for IoT services. Having duked it out over the years in the smartphone wars, Google and Apple have learned that what makes a customer loyal is the user experience and content. The same pattern is emerging for IoT, as vendors strive to control the interfaces and data to discourage people from switching to a competitor. Vendors in their respective industries will battle it out to become the hub that controls home automation, security, health and the Industrial Internet.

With everyone wanting to stake a claim on IoT, 900 exhibitors showed up at CES. A significant majority of the IoT companies on display were focused on devices designed to perform a task really well and solving a single problem. Which begs the question of how many specialist IoT startups can survive once the novelty wears off and how many will return next year?

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

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