By Nitin Dahad
A major new global study looking at the impact of IoT (Internet of Things) technologies across a wide range of industry sectors around the world, found that companies investing in IoT are reporting significant revenue increases as a result of IoT initiatives, with an average increase of 15.6 percent in 2014. Almost one in ten (9 percent) saw a rise of at least 30 percent in revenue.
Company executives see the IoT as a growing area for businesses, with 12 percent identifying a planned spend of $100 million in 2015 and 3 percent looking to invest a minimum of $1 billion among the 795 companies surveyed in the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) report. The report also shows that companies predict their IoT budgets to continue increasing year-on-year, with spending expected to grow by 20 percent by 2018 to $103 million.
Companies at the very forefront of this drive for innovation through IoT have seen the biggest benefits from their investments. The top eight percent of respondents, based on ROI (return on investment) from IoT, report a 64 percent average revenue gain in 2014 as a direct result of these investments. Currently the biggest business impact is that companies can offer their customers more bespoke products and services, yet by 2020 this will convert from marketing functions to increased sales, through adding considerable value to the customer.
This is reflected in the finding that the most frequent use of IoT technologies by companies is tracking customers through mobile apps, used by almost half of all businesses (47 percent). More than half (50.8 percent) of IoT leaders admit to investing in IoT to track their products and how these were performing, whereas this is only the case with 16.1 percent of the respondents with the lowest ROI from IoT.
Other findings of the report are:
Executives in the industrial manufacturing sector are reporting the largest increase in revenue from IoT, with an average 28.5 percent, followed by financial services (17.7 percent) and media & entertainment (17.4 percent). The automotive industry has the lowest revenue gain with just a 9.9 percent increase.
The report, which looks at trends across 13 key industries, found that large-scale investment in IoT infrastructure and monitoring is not confined to those in manufacturing, however, with the travel, transportation and hospitality sectors planning to spend 0.6 percent of revenue this year. Media and entertainment companies will spend 0.57 percent of their revenue on IoT in this year – significantly more than the 0.4 percent average and the 0.44 percent spend in banking and financial services.
The industrial IoT, enterprise IoT, and the role of ecosystems and platforms for an outcome based economy using IoT will be among the many topics of discussion at the forthcoming IoT Solutions World Congress (IOTSWC) in Barcelona, where The Next Silicon Valley is a media partner. The IOTSWC will also explore many areas including healthcare, transportation (such as the ‘connected flight’) and energy.
Taking place in Barcelona from the 16th to the 18th of September 2015, the event will focus on the crossroads between IoT and Industry and will feature 80 companies and institutions. The global headquarters of leading multinationals such as Accenture, Amazon, Bosch, Deloitte, Deutsce Telekom, General Electric, HP, Indra, Intel, IBM, National instruments and Microsoft have chosen the Barcelona based event for several world premieres.
The newly launched event has also established a partnership with the Industrial Internet Consortium, the sector’s leading association, who has advised Fira de Barcelona in the design of the conference program. IOTSWC will also include an exhibition area that will feature not only companies and their latest innovations but also three testbeds with real-life applications of these solutions. These demonstrations will showcase enhanced aircraft assembly, power microgrid connectivity and emergency communications. For more information and to register, visit the event web site – click here.
The term ‘smart’ is applied in many different environments, and often involves connected sensors and devices sending lots of data which can then be acted upon for the benefit of the environment or people in that environment. In this article, we look at an example of IoT in a smart home, and how it can effectively help the wellness of residents living in that home.
By Anita Lankinen
In traditional houses inhabitants act as ‘living sensors’ for indoor condition problems. In most cases air quality, humidity level, CO2 concentration and other indoor measurements are analyzed only after complaints from tenants regarding headaches or some respiratory symptoms. However, even mild symptoms may signify the development of severe lifetime sicknesses like asthma.
We now live in a world of smart homes and connected objects. However, true value comes from even smarter means. Whereas the Internet of things (IoT) is at large about simply connecting every thing, more can and should be done when it comes to analyze and control.
The existing ‘smart home’ solutions and wellness
Things, as well as people, are influenced by their environment, and the environment and other conditions change over time. That’s why it is essential to record the entire lifecycle of a building and the people (and things) living in it. On top of all that stored data, smart algorithms will enable automatic awareness of any changes and create predictions for the future. This creates a virtual ‘smart counterpart’ of the entire building. This counterpart is known as spime, a term originally coined by author Bruce Sterling. It is defined as ‘a futuristic object that can be tracked through space and time throughout its lifetime’.
However, spimes are nothing futuristic anymore. They are already out there and in use throughout all kinds of industries – construction industry included. Global IoT operator BaseN has already spime’d houses in The Netherlands in cooperation with construction giant VolkerWessels. Building components of the newly built houses, such as heat pumps and ventilation units, were equipped with sensors. Their lifetime data is gathered from the very beginning and correlated through other conditions inside and outside the building.
Access to this data is provided both to the tenants and the facility management. The building’s energy and water consumption and environmental conditions (CO2 concentration, indoor temperature and humidity level) are managed through the building’s spime. The spime, for example, automatically adjusts ventilation if the level of CO2 concentration in the house is detected to be too high. The tenants are also able to access all the information on air quality through their customer portals. In addition, production measurements of the rooftops’ PV cells are fed to the spime, providing useful performance data to facility management as well.
The fact that the spimes record the full lifetime history of the houses allows tracking changes in energy consumption and environmental patterns over time. This enables optimization of various settings, ensures preventive maintenance in case of suboptimal performance of equipment, and gives full transparency to both the tenants and the service company. BaseN manages the collection, storage, analysis, control and visual presentation of real-time data from device-specific smart meters (e.g. washing machine, laundry dryer, stove, oven) and sensor-equipped building components (e.g. heat pumps, ventilation units).
The future of spime’d houses
There are still improvements which can be done both during a building’s maintenance and construction phase to make the houses ‘smart’. Existing energy and water consumption management systems can be complemented by additional features, thus providing more security to prevent e.g. water leakages in the apartments. This can be done by introducing a ‘home away’ feature, which notifies the tenant when water is consumed at home, while he or she is away. The feature has already been implemented in another project, Adjutantti, the first of its kind low-energy apartment house in Finland.
During construction works quality of building materials might be influenced by various factors: the woods can be partially wet after heavy rains at the construction site and the concrete can be utilized by the workers when it is not at the appropriate level of dryness. However, due to scheduling issues, constructors are often pressured to use the materials when those are not in a perfect state.
Spiming building materials during the construction phase will help solve this challenge. Additionally, sensors kept in the concrete also after the house construction has been finalized, allow for constantly analyzing the moisture levels of a building’s walls, thereby ensuring that the house ‘breathes’ the way it should.
The most important aspect, though, is the effect on the quality of life of the building’s inhabitants. Their home’s spime will always ensure that they live in perfect living conditions automatically adjusting, e.g. temperature and lighting, and will allow for immediate preventive action, e.g. in the case of deterioration of air quality. The home becomes an active enabler of a person’s health, wellbeing and happiness. That is what makes a smart home truly smart.
Anita Lankinen is with BaseN Corporation.
by Nitin Dahad
As I wrote prior to Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, wearables, connected devices, and IoT interoperability would be a major topic at the show this year, and they certainly were – everywhere you looked, there were smartwatches, wearable electronics and textiles, and even connected toothbrushes. The other topic was of course 5G, which is yet to be defined, but everyone from Korea Telecom to Huawei has their take on 5G and what it should be enabling.
So what were the key trends at this year’s conference? The following list matches my observations most closely, so rather than re-write it, here’s a list courtesy of Imagination Technologies:
Top trends in mobile technology as seen at Mobile World Congress 2015
On the key trends at Mobile World Congress, the EVP of Imagination Technologies, Tony King-Smith, comments, “Over the past decade, we’ve seen enormous changes and disruptions in the mobile landscape in everything from communications standards to smartphone functionality. However, this year’s MWC signaled the start of a new era that goes far beyond phones and infrastructure, as everything from IoT sensors and actuators to wearables to highly connected and increasingly automated cars become an integral part of MWC. What is clear to us is that security and interoperability together with software and system portability lie at the heart of bringing these latest visions of a connected world to life.”
Wearables are entering the mainstream: wearables are now an integral part of any OEM product portfolio. At the conference, we saw numerous smart bracelets and smartwatches. There were even specialized products such as fitness bands introduced by new and emerging companies – for example, AIQ Smart Clothing Inc of Taiwan, which uses innovative technologies to integrate stainless steel yarns and threads directly into clothing to create fashionable, functional, lightweight, washable and easy to use products. AIQ says it merges electronics with textiles to create smart clothing in sports & fitness, outdoor & leisure, home & leisure, home care & healthcare products. The next wave of wearables will be defined as electronics meets fashion.
IoT interoperability: the number of connected IoT devices will continue to grow and be provided by an ever expanding number of vendors, and perform a wide array of functions. Hence high-volume success and consumer satisfaction will be dependent on a level of interoperability not previously seen in the industry.
Security: embedded security has become a critical issue for the next generation of connected devices. Numerous companies announced initiatives and technologies around security, including secure payments, secure mobile operating systems, virtualized solutions for BYOD (bring your own device), encryption and key management technology, security enhanced phones and smartwatches, and even privacy glasses designed to protect against facial recognition technology.
Computer vision and VR/AR applications: vision-aware technologies are increasingly incorporated in smartphones, IoT devices, automotive, robotics, and other products. There was also a re-emergence of virtual reality (VR) and a growing interest in augmented reality (AR) at Mobile World Congress 2015. To create devices that support computer vision, computational photography and new user and social experiences, companies need processing solutions that go beyond CPU/DSP cores to deliver sustained video-rate processing of HD content.
One example of a company using vision applications at the show was SpeechTrans, which was featured on the Intel developer stand. While the company is focused on building out a platform for enabling translation from one language to another, using automatic speech recognition, translation, and text to speech, the addition of Google glass type technology allows them to make a difference in medicine too. Yan Auerbach, its chief operating officer, said that using the combination of vision technology with translation can help medical specialists carry out procedures or deliver telemedicine across different languages and countries.
Highly integrated, ultra-low power communications: at MWC, it was clear that the ‘mobile’ device category now includes a huge number of products beyond mobile phones and tablets – from wearables to automotive to the huge range of new and emerging IoT devices. Low-power Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, Cat 1 and Cat 0 LTE and other short range wireless technologies are key to enabling these devices that are finding their way into every industry, every product category and everyday life.
Network infrastructure expansion and virtualization: to accommodate the ever increasing number of connected devices and expanding cloud infrastructure, 4G buildout continues around the globe. At MWC, 5G was a hot topic, despite the fact that it is yet to be defined. Companies are already looking to the advantages it will provide in the 2020 timeframe. The next generation of infrastructure will require advances in communications and also in embedded processing to support software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).
Mobile payments, mobile health: in addition, there also appears to be a race for building mobile payments ecosystems, and mobile healthcare ecosystems. Many companies were demonstrating their systems – for example, Mozido, which raised $185M in series B funding, partnered with MasterCard, acquired CorFire and PayEase and invested in SimplyTapp; the company was keen to emphasize its innovative mobile financial and retail engagement solutions, interoperable between different platforms and payments technology.
Everyone is talking 5G
As mentioned, everyone at the show had their own definition of 5G, and what it would do for the mobile industry. The boldest statements were delivered by Korea Telecom’s chairman, Hwang Chang-gyu, who said, “We shall create a wondrous future with 5G.” He said that in 5G, the network capacity would increase 1,000 times and would require a guarantee of a seamless connection.
He added, “In the era of Internet of Things(IoT) where everything will be linked via network, ultra-real-time, and ultra-capacity, 5G network is a must in order to allow various different devices to be linked with each other. In order to realize 5G, which is the basis of IoT era, cooperation on a global scale is a must.”
In the connected environment, Hwang explained the need for this level of capacity. If everyone is driving around in self-driving cars, to identify and make sense of the surrounding environment each car must be able to process 1GB of information per second. To allow billions of vehicles to exchange information at the same time is way too much for the current LTE network to handle. He also went on to underscore that setting up a new network (5G) is a must to handle the vast data traffic of the future.
KT is one of many companies developing their ‘5G’ core technology, also having co-developed with Ericsson, a ‘HetNet CA technology’ which is a frequency band merging technology for organic interlocking between small cells. Furthermore, the Korean company has also developed D2D (device to device) technology for IoT and disaster networks with Samsung, and Qualcomm is currently in the process of commercializing the technology.
In summary, there was indeed considerable excitement at Mobile World Congress about the potential of emerging mobile technologies, applications, and the effect of connectivity on modern and future lives. As always with technology conferences though, the hype eventually settles down to reality. So we’ll wait to see how some of these trends emerge in real life products and applications.
by Nitin Dahad
With everyone in tech talking about connected devices, connected cities, wearable technologies and so on, it seems we will all be connected and be able to access information about our homes, lives, environment and public services at anytime and anywhere. This sounds great but there are also lots of issues – for example, how to make the devices talk to each other in a standard way, and how to make access to those devices secure. The recent high profile cyber-attack just demonstrates the potential impact of a breach in network and data security.
The fact that everything is connected makes most connected devices vulnerable to access and manipulation by unwanted forces. So the announcement by ARM last week that it is acquiring Offspark, a Dutch company specializing in IoT communications security technology, is timely, just ahead of Mobile World Congress where over 80,000 people from the mobile industry will converge in Barcelona for its annual gathering.
The congress will of course talk about connected devices, smart cities, mobile tech for health, wearables, and much more, so security will be an important topic to also consider. The Offspark technology acquired by ARM is just one step towards that security, with its technology already deployed in sensor modules, communication modules and smartphones. Now as part of ARM, whose processors are embedded into a majority of the world’s mobile and many connected devices, the acquired technology will help it provide a level of communication security and software cryptography that should help ensuring people trust IoT technology.
Innovation in the mobile economy
The conference will address the whole innovation ecosystem for the mobile economy, including the app economy, and more interestingly, ‘4 Years From Now’, or 4YFN as it is being labeled. This is an international program of talks, interactive workshops, exhibition and networking that brings together mobile start-ups and entrepreneurs with investors, accelerators, incubators and corporations from the mobile ecosystem, looking at the future of mobile.
There will also be a connected city showcase, in the form of the GSMA Innovation City, to bring a ‘fully immersive mobile experience’ – demonstrating how mobile-connected products will continue to transform personal and working lives across the world. There are expected to be experiential demonstrations from AT&T, Jasper, KT Corporation, Oral-B, Sierra Wireless and Vodafone; and the GSMA will also present its key initiatives that pave the way for a more enriched, secure, connected future for global citizens.
Reliance on M2M (machine-to-machine) connections
All of the above of course require connected devices, and ‘machine-to-machine’ (M2M) communications, often using the cellular network. Many applications of M2M are found in various industries – for example in real-time monitoring of temperature for pharmaceutical and food products, to ensure the quality and safety of the products being delivered to patients or consumers.
Recently published research from GSMA Intelligence suggests that at the current rate of trajectory, global cellular M2M connections will reach close to one billion by 2020, growing at 25 percent per year (CAGR) over the period 2015 to 2020. The report, ‘Cellular M2M forecasts: unlocking growth’, also forecasts that if a number of current growth inhibitors are addressed by both industry players and governments, it could potentially lead to a faster growth rate of greater than 40 percent per annum if a range of favorable market conditions are achieved. The best case upside forecast scenario indicates a potential two billion cellular M2M connections globally by 2020.
A survey across leading mobile operators, vendors and adjacent ecosystem players highlighted several key growth drivers that could each contribute to this increase in the number of cellular M2M connections by 2020. These include:
The Mobile World Congress, as I have written before, creates its own Silicon Valley-like ecosystem in Barcelona for a week, and there is no doubt that the conversations in coffee shops, bars, restaurants and of course the conference itself, will look at how to resolve the big issues highlighted here for the mobile industry. With the world heading towards ‘connected everything’, the conference again demonstrates the importance of bringing together key elements of the ecosystem in a ‘live environment’ to create a melting point for lively discussion and debate and help resolve or formulate thinking on the big industry issues, as well as spark innovative new ideas.
by Nitin Dahad
I’ve just spent a week in India talking to several hundred people in the electronics system design, manufacturing and components sector at two annual conferences for India: or put simply, the Indian tech hardware industry. And it seems that they are still struggling to make their mark in the global ecosystem – a stark contrast to the Indian software and digital media sector, which is booming, and seeing considerable innovation to solve real world problems, for the huge Indian market and beyond.
The week saw two big events for the Indian electronics hardware and components sector: the annual IESA Vision Summit in Bangalore, their 10th such one; and the Source India event in Chennai run by electronics components industry association ELCINA. I have two major observations from these two events.
From the semiconductor industry event, it was clear that the rhetoric was much the same as over the last five years – the association still talks about the need to set up semiconductor fabrication facilities in India for some level of self-sufficiency in electronics supplies (and to avoid the surplus imports from China); and it talks about the $400 billion ESDM (electronics systems design and manufacturing) market opportunity in India – this figure hasn’t been updated for at least three years.
The mantra is the same and a number of chief ministers from different states were inviting the audience to come and set up manufacturing in their state, with lots of incentives offered (such as free space).
[Editor’s note on this: I asked a question from the floor to a panel of state IT ministers at the IESA Vision Summit enquiring which state offered which benefits to overseas investors, and how an overseas investor could differentiate between all these states so they could make the right choice; the moderator immediately dismissed the question, saying foreigners need to look at India as many different countries, since that is the reality, as there is no one ‘India’: in one fell swoop they seem to have dismissed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to present India as one to the outside world!]
At the component manufacturing level, the issue from some of the speakers seemed to be that India was good for manufacturing low level discrete components for the Indian market, but sometimes innovation and quality was an issue if they were considering export markets.
Is the issue image?
And this might be a key issue – Indian electronics manufacturing could be having a problem with its image. When I was advising the British trade and investment organization in 2012 to encourage business between India and the UK, there was a complete lack of interest from trade bodies like NMI, who said India was purely a low cost software outsourcing destination and couldn’t be considered seriously in the area of electronics systems design and innovation.
But there must be some kind of disconnect between global perception and what is happening on the ground. Take for example Cosmic Circuits, which was acquired by multinational electronic design tools vendor Cadence in 2013. Cosmic Circuits was founded in Bangalore in 2005 and had developed advanced mixed signal (ie: analog and digital) semiconductor intellectual property for functionality like USB, MIPI, audio and wi-fi in leading edge technologies known in the semiconductor industry as 40nm and 28nm. By the time of its acquisition, top tier customers globally were shipping 50 million chips containing Cosmic Circuits’ intellectual property.
While Cosmic Circuits was successful, India doesn’t have many stories like this to tell in electronics systems design – most of the successes are in software startups. The hardware industry still appears to be focused on manufacturing and setting up expensive fabs, rather than encouraging innovation in system design.
Young ambition for startups – inspired by software startups
Despite this, there does appear to be a drive by younger design engineers who have ambition and are willing to go to startup mode. I met several advanced technology startups in Bangalore which look set to take on global markets well. One for example is Maxerience, which doesn’t yet have a web site, but is doing something innovative and smart (see its LinkedIn page) – it has developed technology that converges advanced machine learning algorithms and high speed computing for real time recognition and detection, with applications in surveillance, defense systems and industrial automation. The demo I saw at the conference itself told me there is something worth watching here with this company.
This inspiration in the electronics industry is obviously coming from the ground up rather than being driven by industry associations. Youngsters are probably inspired by what’s happening in the software industry, and reading about the thousands of startups solving real world problems and able to grow rapidly in a global market – these stories are told daily in magazines like YourStory and VCCircle, and many others.
And even in the mainstream press there is a buzz about the Indian tech sector. For example, NASSCOM, the software industry trade association, said that India saw 800 new technology start-ups setting up in 2014, taking the total number of startups to 3,100, and that the country is poised to house the second biggest ecosystem for tech startups after the USA in the next two years, on account of the ongoing high growth rates.
In the report, NASSCOM said these startup companies have received over USD 2.3 billion in funding since 2010, while over 70 private equity and venture capital funds are active in the segment. In addition, there were over 62 angel investors active in 2014, and there are over 80 incubators and start-up accelerators operating in the country.
Another report suggests that India will have at least five ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) startups with a billion dollar valuation by 2018. According to Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, the continued affordability of smartphones and growing acceptance of BYOD (bring your own device) means more and more people are accessing corporate data through mobile devices; he says that Indian enterprises are at an early stage of understanding the impact of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies on their core business, suggesting this is only just the beginning.
In summary, I have written on numerous occasions about the Indian electronics and software industry over the last 22 years. One of the common themes throughout has always been that India needs to encourage innovation in electronics design, so that they can compete in global electronics ecosystems and match what is happening currently in Indian software. Last week has shown that while the messaging from trade bodies might not have changed, young Indian electronics engineers could be the ones who actually drive change and create innovative startups in technology hardware that compete with the big global players.
by Nitin Dahad
The ubiquity of mobile communications has the potential to impact almost every part of society and industry sector. Mobile can enable digital inclusion, cut costs in public health services, save lives, feed more starving people, educate more children, enable more efficient delivery of public services, help reduce carbon emissions and improve living environments through smart and connected cities. The list goes on – and the industry has been talking about connected devices and the internet of things for years.
So it is no surprise that many of the technology predictions for 2015 feature mobile or mobile apps as the platform for delivery. This week’s 2015 International CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is testament to that, with a strong focus on mobile, the internet of things (as well as 3D printing and drones this year, plus the customary latest television tech). In recent years, the show has almost become the default pre-cursor and preview to the big Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona in March.
The 2015 CES event press release issued before the show does in fact focus, yet again, on the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) – stating it will feature the largest ever showcase of products, services and technologies that make up the IoT, with more than 900 exhibitors planning to share innovations utilizing networks to connect everyday devices. Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES, and corporate business strategy, CEA said, “It’s all about the opportunity to connect everyday items like cars, home security systems and kitchen appliances to networked devices like PCs and smartphones for greater control and management of our everyday lives.”
At the CES show, this will include the ‘Sensors Marketplace’, a key technology enabling the IoT. In addition, the ‘Smart Home Marketplace’ will showcase a smarter, more efficient home accelerated by smartphones and tablets interacting with a myriad of connected objects and devices, from basic security systems to connected lighting systems.
Mobile predictions for 2015
There are many predictions for 2015. Gartner talks about a merger of the real world with the physical world, with computing everywhere, the IoT and 3D printing. The forecast, published last October, says as mobile devices proliferate, there will be an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments, as opposed to focusing on devices alone.
According to Duncan Clark of Netbiscuits, we’ll see a positive trend towards larger and foldable screens; super batteries will be a key focus, and a closer integration of technology into our daily lives through wearables. Video consumption on the mobile will also grow sharply, and the use of gesture control technology will increase. In addition, the proliferation of big data from mobile will mean increased and better analytics, which may also require human intuitive analysis to unlock full value from the data.
The battle for wearable technology is also part of the top 15 mobile predictions for 2015 presented by Mastercard at Mashable. As with other reports, connected environments – with expansion of the IoT footprint, enabling the connected home, integrated mobile in automotive and into other environments are also featured. Health and nutrition monitoring will expand in 2015, with mobile and wearable devices generating and tracking real-time data regarding personal health parameters— such as blood glucose levels, sleep quality, and other data points critical to health.
With multi-screen becoming more of a norm, the screen-agnostic experience will grow, with seamless content/context transfer across devices. Sravish Sridhar, founder and CEO of Kinvey, says, “Apps are increasingly becoming experiences that live across multiple endpoints — from wearables to phones, tablets, and web applications.” As a result, products and apps that can seamlessly transfer between these different devices and states as users move from one to another will have a significant advantage.
Given the sponsor of the report, it talks about mobile payments growing both as a local phenomenon as well being part of a global mobile payment ecosystem. Businesses will also deploy mobile-first strategies, to enable staff to keep working whatever devices they might be using.
Looking to the mobile future
Taking this a step further than 2015, the Mobile World Congress will feature 4YFN (Four years from now). This event is an international program presented by Mobile World Capital Barcelona and GSMA that brings together the best mobile start-ups and entrepreneurs with investors, accelerators, incubators and corporations from the mobile ecosystem. 4YFN will host talks, interactive workshops, an exhibition and enable networking opportunities for over 5,000 attendees from 70 countries, featuring strands on ‘disrupted by mobile’, ‘internet of things’, and ‘digital media’.
In summary, we’ve written and talked about the proliferation of mobile for many years. But 2015 is likely to be a year when mobile will truly be a driver of potentially positive change for almost all technology and non-technology industries.
Everyone is talking about the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) as being the next industrial revolution. There are varying estimates of how many devices will be connected, including the latest that suggests the IoT will connect 28 billion things to the internet by 2020. In order to have the benefits of the economic and civic upside of the IoT beyond just smart meters, many places need to improve the infrastructure that allows lots of sensors embedded into everyday products to connect to the internet and provide meaningful data to local and national service providers – including healthcare authorities.
That’s probably why we’re seeing more local government initiatives like the launch of Next Century Cities in the USA, and the SuperConnected Cities project in the UK, and the Digital India project in India. There are of course many national broadband connectivity plans in countries ranging from Australia through to Brazil.
The Next Century Cities launch in Santa Monica, California, USA, this month, is a city-to-city initiative dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband internet for all communities. The cities and their elected leaders are joining together to recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit-level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities. The launch, held at a coworking space for Santa Monica’s technology companies, convened mayors and leaders from 32 cities for a cross-cutting discussion about what’s worked in their cities and how to support next-generation networks nationwide.
At the launch, city leaders agreed on the importance of next-generation broadband for thriving 21st century communities, with input from Federal Communications chairman Tom Wheeler. They also had group discussions between local government representatives and technology officials, and looked at the potential of gigabit Internet connections for cities. Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, said, “Across the country, city leaders are hungry to deploy high-speed Internet to transform their communities and connect residents to better jobs, better health care, and better education for their children.”
The UK SuperConnected Cities projects looks at the challenge slightly differently. The government set aside an urban broadband fund of UK £150 million to create 22 ‘super connected’ cities. What this really means is that the government provided vouchers worth £3,000 to small and medium sized businesses to connect to superfast broadband through national delivery partners. According to TechWeek Europe, the superconnected cities vision was originally intended to provide the cities with funds to build superfast broadband and public Wi-Fi networks, but legal challenges from internet service providers meant they had to dilute their ambitions to a grant scheme offered to businesses.
In India, enabling better connectivity is being addressed through the National Broadband Plan, introduced in 2010 by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which has allocated around Rs 600 billion ($9.8 billion) to build the optical fibre network throughout the country. The plan aims to provide affordable and reliable broadband to 600 million subscribers by 2020.
The government re-enforced this message this month, saying it would help bridge the digital divide in India by enabling 50,000 villages with broadband connectivity by the end of this fiscal year. It also said that another 100,000 hamlets would be connected by 2015-16, and another 100,000 rural habitations will be connected by 2016-17.
Creating smart cities is in the interest of the major telecoms equipment providers too, as they look to figure out how they can effectively monetize the network infrastructure better. For example, Cisco is working with a number of cities to create ‘smart and connected cities’ – with the latest location being in Mexico.
Cisco will advise the Guadalajara Ciudad Creativa Digital project to help create a world-class hub of digital media development and become a Smart+Connected™ city, based on global best practices from the work it says it has done in cities like Barcelona, Toronto, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro and Guayaquil. The city of Guadalajara will deploy a pilot project on city infrastructure, telecommunications and urban services, as it works towards becoming a global digital audiovisual production node, and foster creative industries which would include TV, cinema, interactive multimedia, digital animation, e-learning, apps, and video game development.
“Technology plays a significant role in urban transformation, reinforcing the competitiveness of cities and its capacity to attract talent and investments. We are pleased to participate in this project with the city of Guadalajara, offering our experience designing smart cities and helping them to become the first creative cluster in the region working under this concept,” said Jordi Botifoll, president of Cisco in Latin America.
The pilot in Guadalajara would involve the following projects:
There is indeed significant momentum in many of the initiatives worldwide on connecting cities, people and things. Governments had already recognized not many years ago that connectivity was important for their local and regional economies, but they probably hadn’t reckoned on change happening so fast, and technology moving so fast.
It’s clear now that with technology underpinning almost every aspect of modern life, these initiatives will be built upon quite rapidly. Indirectly, this has become a golden opportunity for technology companies that can demonstrate to local governments and authorities they are able to play a part in improving people’s lives, and the local and regional economies.
The internet of things is likely to be a key technology driving innovation over the next few years. It’s a theme that’s grown over the last couple of years, and now in January 2013 we saw the launch of the ‘Internet of Things Consortium’, formed at International CES in Las Vegas, and after that, Wall Street Journal tech columnist and key influencer Walt Mossberg also highlighting the internet of things (IoT) as the ‘next big thing’ at a talk in North Carolina, USA.
The ‘IoT’ refers to devices of any kind connected with mobile or wireless to networks, enabling machine-to-machine communications (M2M). Mobile SIM cards or radio modules with Wi-Fi/GPRS can be embedded in almost anything, ranging from entertainment, safety and security, to business services. Put another way, the IoT or M2M communications is the networking of intelligent, communications-enabled remote assets, allowing key information to be exchanged automatically without human intervention via a back-end IT infrastructure. The remote assets, which can be fixed or mobile, include cars and truck fleets, utility meters, copiers and printers, ventilation and air-conditioning sensors, home medical devices, fitness monitors and CCTV cameras.
The conditions they monitor can include temperature, location, consumption, heart rate, stress levels, light, movement, altitude and speed – or anything else. This can be used to gain immediate feedback on how a particular remote asset is being used, which features are most popular and what problems typically arise.
Typical examples already common are in energy management and health and well-being: for example, smart energy meters remotely transmitting usage data or controlled by utility companies, or patient monitoring systems where key patient data can be transmitted automatically to a carer or care centre.
In patient monitoring, research from analyst firm Berg Insight suggests around 2.8 million patients worldwide were using a dedicated home monitoring service based on equipment with integrated connectivity at the end of 2012 (figure excludes patients using their personal mobile phone, tablet or PC for remote monitoring). The analyst forecasts the number of home monitoring systems with integrated communication capabilities will grow to reach 9.4 million connections worldwide by 2017.
It is possible to connect any type of remote machine or device to critical information systems and collect real-time field intelligence to improve efficiency, reduce costs, introduce new services and gain competitive advantage. The ultimate aim is to enable anytime, anywhere access to real-time intelligence from remote machines.
‘Everything will be connected to everything else’
According to the ‘Internet of Things Consortium’, formed at International CES in Las Vegas, “In the future, everything will be connected to everything else.” The consortium is a non-profit organization with the mission of facilitating cooperation between hardware, software, and service providers. It is primarily focused on Internet enabled devices and related software services that directly touch consumers in the form of home automation, entertainment, and productivity.
One of the goals of the consortium is to see billions of connected devices that benefit from communication with other devices and services.
According to Machina Research, global M2M connections will increase from two billion at the end of 2011 to 18 billion at the end of 2022. Even Ericsson has been forecasting for a couple of years that there will be 50 billion connections by the year 2020. Connections will be dominated by two sectors: consumer electronics (including cameras, music players and TVs) and intelligent buildings (for example security and HVAC systems). Between them they will account for almost 70% of the total.
By 2022, Europe and developing Asia-Pacific will be tied as the biggest region for M2M, each accounting for 27 percent of connections. The biggest single markets will be the China and the US with 20 percent and 19 percent respectively. In terms of revenue, M2M will grow from US$200 billion in 2011 to US$1.2 trillion in 2022Two-thirds of the revenue opportunity is accounted for by devices and installation, and one-third by M2M services.
Matt Hatton, director of Machina Research, says, “M2M, in all its diversity, is little short of a second industrial revolution. The growth in connected devices over the next few years will fundamentally change the way we live and work. The potential to save money, generate new revenue streams and create sustainable cities will drive businesses, governments and individuals to embrace M2M. The potential impact is huge.”
It’s not the technology that’s important – it’s the data and how you read it
They key thing about M2M is that the technology is transparent or hidden to the application – the user doesn’t necessarily need to know it exists (think of Apple and its gadgets). What’s more important is the data that is produced, and how it is interpreted. The challenge with having billions of connected devices generating many data points in this new era of connectedness is how to read and interpret the data. This is where the role of business intelligence systems analytics comes in.
Take for example the cold chain logistics supply chain of the pharmaceuticals and food industries. Dutch company Dyzle monitors the temperature and other key parameters of medicines, pharmaceuticals ingredients and food ingredients in storage, transport and distribution. Tags with connectivity travel with the medicines or food or while they are in transport or cold storage, to monitor the temperature and other key parameters to ensure that they do not deviate outside a specified temperature range stipulated by a company’s quality requirements as well as regulatory requirements – and patient/consumer safety expectations.
But it’s not the technology that’s important – sensors and hardware can be integrated from any solution. What’s important is how that data is gathered and reported. In this case, regulatory requirements mandate that the entire history of temperature during storage and distribution must to be documented to provide proof of product quality, which means many data points are being generated continuously. So Dyzle collects the data in the cloud, provides automatic reporting and analysis of that data via personal dashboards, and makes it available securely via any internet-enabled device to quality managers and company managers.
‘Big data’ needs business intelligence
These reports and data link into to company-wide business intelligence and ERP systems. Business intelligence is increasingly becoming an area that many organisations are exploring, in order to deal with the massive amount of data that is collected. Hence the emergence of service providers offering platforms that allow you to do things with the data, often in the cloud as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that eliminates the need to install any systems, and requiring no additional resources for data warehousing; they also provide analytics engines, report building and visualisation tools amongst others.
One such business intelligence provider is datazuum – CEO Samir Sharma comments, “Business intelligence and advanced analytical tools should be embedded into the culture of all organisations (where enough data exists). These types of systems don’t need to be expensive or technically dependent on the IT department; you also don’t need to buy a lot of hardware and software to support these activities. It’s the business people that know their business and their data, not someone sitting in an ultra-technical department.”
Business intelligence in the cloud provides companies with fast, inexpensive deployment, no hardware and setup expenditure, no capital expenditure (lowers entry barriers), software upgrades and maintenance, pre-built connectors and dashboards for many systems. It also provides improved data sharing capabilities to access data anytime and anywhere.
It’s up to the imagination and business model for innovation with IoT
Coming back to Walt Mossberg’s comment that IoT will be the next big thing, it could indeed be the basis of the next industrial revolution, especially since it is totally up to the imagination and creativity of business model. Businesses and individuals have the ability to connect anything using a wireless connection to talk to other devices and report back on social or business parameters.
This ‘Internet of things’ will have a huge impact on how businesses look at their business operations, efficiency and productivity – in the next few years it could actually help restore confidence after the global economic crisis, providing a leap forward in global productivity. Combine this with the need to interpret the huge number of data points that will be generated – the so-called ‘big-data – and automated business intelligence and reporting systems also become increasingly important. The next wave of innovation will therefore come around the internet of things, big data and business intelligence.