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The consumer Internet of Things may be hyper-competitive, but at least it’s easy to define. The average end-user wants relatively few things of their IoT right now: a smart home, a smart car, and maybe a bit of healthcare information. If you’re selling a hot new security or energy management or fitness app or device, there are only so many places to look for partners. But what about all the other “things?”
The industrial IoT will eventually eclipse consumer markets, in terms of both the number of connected devices and the volume and value of connections. But the market’s potential is so large because it’s not just one market. The only thing salinity sensors, tire pressure monitors and nuclear density gauges have in common is that they’re all very important devices that someone wants to connect (though not necessarily to one another). The industrial IoT is a nearly limitless collection of use cases, each with its own ecosystem of hardware, APIs, networks, security protocols and financial constraints. And unlike the consumer industry, which is forced by markets toward openness and standardization, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that in many industries, vendors will create and maintain proprietary standards for the foreseeable future. All of that adds up to a mess for the enterprise, device manufacturer, or ISV that wants to get the jump on their competition and lead the charge.
On the consumer side, there’s hope. As Gigaom Research Analyst Adam Lesser pointed out, we’re making substantial progress toward a platform for the connected home. At the very least, the smart home is seeing some coalescence around a few key vendors, thanks to kingmakers like Google, Home Depot, and Lowe’s (with Apple in the wings). Plenty of standards and relationships are still up in the air (Will BLE and Wi-Fi kill Zigbee and Z-Wave?), but we’ve surfaced a handful of companies for which building applications and hardware is a reasonably safe bet. Due to a lack of dominant standards and hubs, the wellness and healthcare markets aren’t nearly as far along, but regulation and consumer demand should winnow down the field soon enough.
Industrial and enterprise development is far more chaotic. Without a broad financial incentive for a consolidated standards push, early adopters are largely on their own. At our October Structure Connect conference, I spoke with the CTO of a regional shipping company integrating real-time payload weight, stock levels, and relative positioning of other fleet vehicles. He admitted that he left many of the integration decisions up to his hardware providers — some of which had never developed software. He knew it wasn’t a long-term strategy, but “getting a jump on the competition was more important than building something that will last for ten years.”
That’s a risky strategy, but he was right about one thing: the benefits of sensor-driven data in the enterprise are too big to ignore. But while we’re seeing fantastic progress from groups like the IIC and OIC, and regulatory bodies are beginning to participate in the discussion, the near term will require a certain amount of in-house integration and creativity. That’s why we’ve decided to focus a large part of our research in the coming year on how businesses can best navigate the path toward connected intelligence while the dust settles on standards. In the first quarter of 2015, Gigaom Research will build on our previous research by examining the following:
- Which devices to sensor-enable, and which sensors to choose
- How to build and certify ecosystems and APIs around sensor-driven products and apps
- Which different networks and protocols are available, and how to choose the right one(s) for the job
- How to balance security concerns with time-to-market
Are there any issues we missed, or topics you’d like us to cover? Let us know.