This article is featured in DZone's Guide to the Internet of Things – 2015 Edition.
In order to more thoroughly understand the Internet of Things space, we interviewed 22 executives with diverse backgrounds and experience with IoT technologies representing both the industrial and consumer product spaces.
Specifically, we spoke to:
• Chuck Sathrum, VP - Energy, Embedded Logix • Keith McKechnie, Solutions Engineer, USAT • Chuck Speicher, Founder, Security Fabric Alliance • Sean Lorenz, Director of IoT Market Strategy, LogMeIn.com • Darren Guccione, CEO and Co-Founder, Keeper Security • Andrew Trice, MobileFirst Developer Advocate, IBM • Kevin Pope, COO and Co-Founder, MatterHackers • Mikko Jarva, CTO Intelligent Data, Comptel • Michael Oblak, CTO, RentingLock • Bill Balderaz, President, Fathom Healthcare • Brad Bush, COO, Dialexa • Ameer Sami, Founder and Chief Engineer, Ottomate • Yannis Tsampalis, CEO, DogStar Life • Fred Bargetzi, CTO, Crestron Electronics • Mark Wright, Director of Product Management, Ayla Networks • Tony Paine, CEO, Kepware Technologies • Andreea Borcea, Founder & Consultant, Efficient Entrepreneur • Charles Wilson, Principal, Fancy Company • Beatrice Witzgall, Founder, Lumifi • Rich Carpenter, Chief Strategist, GE Intelligent Platform Software • Kevin Coppins, General Manager - Americas, EasyVista • Imad Mouline, CTO, Everbridge
Throughout our conversations, we found that executives were often lining up with consistent answers to our questions, and had similar opinions about the present and future of IoT and M2M technologies. This consistency helped us draw some major conclusions about how businesses are addressing opportunities and problems in the space from an executive level. The following are the key insights from our interviews:
01. There’s Not a Single Definition of IoT
This isn’t much of a surprise. Your definition depends on your perspective, background, and experience. By summarizing the diverse responses to the question of how they define IoT, we ended up with the following definition:
The communicat ion, connect ivity, and computing ability of devices sharing data via the Internet to help improve products, services, responsiveness, and quality of life.
That being said, it’s not all that important to have a universal definition of IoT. What is important is to have agreed-upon standards of connectivity and security to ensure a future of IoT technologies that can communicate and collaborate instead of existing in their own siloed ecosystems.
02. Twitter, TechCrunch, and Face-to-Face Communications...
...are how executives are staying abreast of industry trends. Executives tend to follow specific individuals and companies that have credibility in the IoT space.
Respondents also receive tremendous value from face-to-face interactions with colleagues at conferences, events, and meetups. Just as important is meeting with clients and prospects to hear what’s important to them and their customers.
Developers should avail themselves of every opportunity to meet with manufacturers, prospects, clients, end users, and other developers in the IoT space.
03. The Biggest Problem Solved by IoT is Real-Time Monitoring
This is being realized in industrial and healthcare verticals right now. Unlike anything preceding M2M and IoT, users are now able to see data variances in real time and respond quickly to changing situations.
IoT makes monitoring possible where it wasn’t possible before; it makes things simpler, less expensive, and more accurate where possible. The key is to know what the problems are you’re looking to solve. For example, Goldman Sachs sees the potential opportunity for $305 billion in savings from digital healthcare in the near future. As much as $200 billion could be largely due to the elimination of redundant and wasteful expenditures. The other $100 billion is forecast to come from telehealth, which expands access to healthcare regardless of a patient’s geographic location.
04. Diverse Experience is Key to Developing Successful IoT Products
Respondents are looking for people with experience wearing multiple hats across the development process, ranging from applications to cloud to security. Developers and other team members need to be able to see how things interconnect beyond just the level at which they are working.
Also important is the ability to interact with people. Manufacturers, who may not have experience with IoT, will need a lot of help integrating IoT devices into their products. Being able to interact with end-user customers gives everyone working on the product insight into what the customer needs and wants, as well as what’s working for them and what isn’t. It’s invaluable to see the customer using your product in the real world.
05. The Future of IoT is Your Imagination
Ubiquity, possibilities, elegance, and simplicity of interacting with multiple devices is the ultimate vision for the future of IoT. The changing business model can already be seen in services like Netf lix, Airbnb, Uber, and the millions of sensors monitoring shipments and production lines in industrial settings. Industries will be completely disrupted.
IoT will drive intelligent actions informed by data. It will help companies and people collaborate across silos and form communities across geographies. And though it’ll bring many quality of life enhancements, M2M and IoT technologies will certainly displace many line workers with automated solutions, hence the need for a future workforce that understands computers, technology, and programming.
06. Be Operating System Agnostic
Ideally, all devices should work together to build open systems. It’s possible that a single platform and standard could evolve over time, but the focus right now needs to be on organizations being agile and flexible to meet market needs. This means creating products with a focus on connectivity and integration. The majority of respondents replied that their products are platform and OS agnostic—which means that these executives understand the push for open and connected technologies.
Two respondents were using their own proprietary operating systems for freestanding products. Everyone else was typically using a combination of operating systems (or an intentional lack of one) with the understanding that they need to be able to integrate with whatever their customers, end users, or manufacturers use.
07. Security and Privacy are the Biggest Concerns
When asked about concerns, positive responses far outweighed the negatives; however, virtually everyone said security needed to be addressed, especially for consumer IoT products. Articles like “Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway—With Me in It” in Wired are very disconcerting, but reinforce the consumer concern for data privacy.
Many executives were also concerned that the need for developers far outnumbers available candidates. As such, anything developers can do to diversify their skills in the areas of hardware development, cloud operations, remote protocol, data and system integration, algorithms, and cryptography will make them more valuable to emerging IoT industries.
08. There’s a Significant Gap Between M2M/Industrial IoT and Hobby/Consumer IoT With Regard to Security and Standards
Companies and standards bodies (e.g. OPC and IIC) need to identify a set of protocols and standards to ensure the security of information being shared between machines and connected services.
The scale of IoT is significantly greater than security solutions for systems focused on servers, desktops, or smartphones. It means building highly scalable solutions to deal with tens of billions of devices and endpoints.
Also, Industrial IoT projects typically have defined needs and products aren’t being built “on spec.” With consumer products, too many people are building solutions for which no problem exists. There needs to be a greater focus on solving problems over making cool gadgets.
09. Stay Creative and Don’t Be Constrained by the Existing Technology
If the idea is good enough, the technology will be developed to support and execute the idea, whether it’s for industrial or consumer use.
Empower developers by having them eat their own dog food. Take the product you’re working on to a facility and see how it interacts with other products and machines. Take the product home and see how your family likes and interacts with it. Build products on established, secure, and scalable platforms that can be changed in the field as you get more and more real-time data. If something’s not working or not delivering the desired end-user experience, be able to fix it in the field without having to touch every device.
While many of the executives we interviewed are engineers still actively working on their own products, often the thoughts about what makes a technology valuable can vary within even the organization. We’re interested in hearing from developers and other IT professionals if this kind of data offers real value to them—do you think it’s helpful to see these kinds of executive insights? We welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more insights on IoT security, protocols, and standards, get your copy of the Guide to the Internet of Things – 2015 Edition now!