IoT Tech Expo: Convergence of Tech, Business Model Innovation, Collaboration and Smart Cities

A year has passed since the last IoT Tech Expo in London, and it’s becoming even more apparent that the Internet of Things (IoT) is growing fast. The sheer scale of this space became immediately clear when stepping into the Olympia venue last week, with innovation after innovation being showcased wherever you turn, from the exhibitors, to the panels, to the presentations. There were, however, several big recurring themes that kept cropping up, including business model innovation, convergence of tech, and smart cities.

Convergence of Technologies

Throughout the two day expo, the convergence of technologies was continuously mentioned, and not for the first time, as a driver of innovation that’s also enabling technologies to reach their full potential. This is particularly clear in the convergence of artificial intelligence (A.I) and IoT, with a good example being the Amazon Alexa, which blends hardware, A.I, and voice control to create one of the most innovative products to come out of the past year.

“Max Amordeluso was there from Amazon speaking about the company’s belief that by integrating artificial intelligence into products, it will then enable voice to become the next major disruption in computing.”

Max Amordeluso was there from Amazon speaking about the company’s belief that by integrating artificial intelligence into products, it will then enable voice to become the next major disruption in computing. It makes sense that it’s voice leading the charge, as speech in the form of Voice User Interface (VUI) is the most natural, and will help enable technology to become invisible and enter the realms of science fiction, where some of the best inspiration for the next innovative technologies can come from. When thought about under those terms, it’s not really surprising to learn that the inspiration for Alexa came from the Star Trek supercomputer.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur Clarke

Similarly, the next generation of connected cars and mobility panel stressed that we need to utilise A.I to create compelling experiences, and highlighted that by making the system intelligent, the car itself as a platform can create. Think about this, for example: at the moment, taking a trip and having to find a parking space can be a stressful activity. But what if your car could drop you off wherever you wanted, and then go and find a parking space on it’s own, potentially outside of the city? Or alternatively, if your car didn’t require you to do anything, how could we create an experience inside the vehicle that would enable us to use our time more productively, especially now when people are trying to cram more and more into every minute of the day?

“What valuable company is nobody building?” – Peter Thiel

Wearables is another area of IoT that is continuing to grow, with fitness devices still being the most popular wearable, and smartwatches coming in second. However, much of the discussion around wearables is how there is yet to be a ‘killer app’ that takes the market and provides the solution people don’t know they’re looking for. Does the answer lie in the convergence of technology in smart fabrics, A.I, and voice control? Or is it simply that within all areas of IoT, the best answers lie in the technology itself. Perhaps the next great app will be developed by a machine, not a person?

Collaboration and Partnerships

Collaborations and partnerships was discussed across the board at the IoT Tech Expo, with most speakers and panels mentioning the importance of collaboration and partnerships in finding success in IoT projects, from automotives to smart cities.

“A notable example in the automotive sector is the collaboration between Amazon and Ford, where Ford has integrated the Alexa system to enable voice control as part of their connected car offering.”

A notable example in the automotive sector is the collaboration between Amazon and Ford, where Ford has integrated the Alexa system to enable voice control as part of their connected car offering. However, partnerships are not exclusive to large companies. Start-ups and SME’s can provide a pivotal role in the co-creation of new products and services, as the most important thing for any collaboration/partnership to work is ensuring partners have complementary knowledge and skillsets. Think big, start small, and scale fast.

In terms of smart cities, strong partnerships and collaborations can really aid in the development of new technologies and ideas to deliver innovative solutions. An example of this is the Lighthouse Cities (part of Gustaf Landahl’s Grow Smarter project), comprised of Stockholm, Barcelona, and Cologne, who are part of a four year programme to identify, create, test, and roll-out a range of smart cities initiatives. There are already over 12 example of live projects underway, including collaborations between industrial giants such as IBM, but crucially also with smaller start-ups and technologists.

Business Model Innovation

How can you create revenue generating products by connecting dumb things to the internet?

There’s been a lot of talk around connected devices and whether or not the majority actually hold any value. Take L’Oreal and Kerastase’s new hairbrush, for example. Is there any real need for a $ 200 hairbrush that can listen to your split ends and let you know you’re brushing your hair in the wrong way?

The question of being able to connect things to the internet, whilst also creating revenue generation products, was one posed to the “Monetisation – unlocking the revenue of IoT” panel. It’s an interesting question, as it leads to innovation that goes beyond the product and into the opportunity that IoT creates around developing new business models. The Internet of Things is fundamentally about collecting data, and the business opportunity lies in identifying what data actually holds value, who would want that data, and consequently building a business model around that.

Metromile and Progressive are two current examples of business model innovation already being used in auto insurance, where they employ a pay-per-mile model enabled by IoT. They are both excellent examples of how IoT can enable us to create value and new markets that have never existed before, but which benefit both business and consumer.

On the flip side, during the ‘Using data to enhance sports performance panel’ a new business model idea was touched on, wherein the person using the service may no longer have to pay in the traditional manner, and instead ‘pay’ by giving away any data collected. An example where this model could potentially work well and benefit all involved is in the fitness world, where a gym goer could give away any biometric and fitness data collected during their session in return for use of fitness facilities. It’s a matter of identifying who values the data and building a business model around that.

There is a real opportunity here to be truly innovative around business models and unlock their hidden value, rather than defaulting to the same old structure that, whilst still working for now, has the potential to become quickly outdated as IoT steams ahead. We should take an experimental approach as success in IoT is a journey with plenty of twists and turns (and getting lost along the way), where we can start collecting data, identify the value in the data, and act accordingly.

Smart Cities

“A lot of discussion happened around smart cities at the expo itself, with what appeared to be a focus on ‘green’ smart city initiatives.”

Smart cities is a big topic in IoT, with projects like Bristol is Open and MK:Smart in Milton Keynes leading the way in the UK. A lot of discussion happened around smart cities at the expo itself, with what appeared to be a focus on ‘green’ smart city initiatives. Our CEO Mick Robins’ favourite idea was around the use of gamification to influence energy saving behaviour amongst tenants in the city’s social housing.

For smart cities to work there is also a need for smart citizens. Karl-Filip Coenegrachts, the Chief Strategy Officer in Ghent, challenged the top-down, big corporate approach to addressing the opportunities of smart cities, which then leads to platform wars where the critical role of the citizen is either marginalized or ignored, emphasising the fact that the ‘role of government is to join the dots’.

Ghent has instead developed a person centered approach, placing the Smart Citizen at the heart of it’s Smart City strategy. Central to the strategy is a belief that Open Data and Open API’s equals Open Government, which includes open citizen reporting, open 3D mapping of the city (which has a dual purpose in being used for educational games, as well as town planning), and citizens often show a preference for smart city solutions that are more Low Tech than High (investment) Tech.

The IoT Tech Expo Global last week in London gave us all a lot to think about, and raised several interesting questions, especially around the growth of IoT and where it’s going to move in the future. Business model innovation and smart cities are two of the biggest topics to come out of the conference for us, and we’ll be sharing a lot more of our thoughts around the two throughout this year. With how fast the entire sector is moving, it will be intriguing to see what’s changed come the Europe and North American Expo’s later on this year.

Author: Mick Robins and David Gregory, Connected Space. Originally published here.

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Interview: “Let’s use all benefits that technology offers us,” Branko Milikic, CEO of WolkAbout

What motivated you to start a business in the IoT domain?

After I had finished my Software Engineering studies, I entered the field of IT, where I have been for over 25 years. Four years ago, I had a problem with high bills for electricity and heating in my house, and I was unsuccessful in finding a quality sensor system on the market which would help me in saving money. Since I was a CEO of a software development company at the time, I asked my employees if they could develop our own sensor. They said: “Let us try,” and so it all began. In short, I decided to come up with something that would help me in my home, and at the same time, it was the beginning of my new company.

“IoT is a new industry, and people are afraid of new things. However, I’m sure that in the end, it will bring positive changes not only to the companies but everyday life as well. IoT is not just about reducing costs and saving money; it’s about new high-quality products that people wouldn’t have without the use of new technologies and IoT.”Branko Milikic is the CEO of WolkAbout Technology, a company focusing on the development of the product and tools which enable the building of customized Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for more than three years. Although he doesn’t consider himself being an expert, only a few people deserve this title more. We spent an inspiring afternoon with him during one of his visits to Brno.

How would you define the Internet of Things?
“Let’s take advantage of all the good stuff from the world of computing in our everyday life” could be the definition. If we want to benefit from the connectivity and speed of the modern era, we should connect all things around us to the Internet. It is a difficult task that we should take responsibly. We should build a solid foundation which would enable us to develop a high-quality and reliable solution.

How do people perceive the Internet of Things?
IoT is a new industry, and people are afraid of new things. However, I’m sure that in the end, it will bring positive changes not only to the companies but everyday life as well. IoT is not just about reducing costs and saving money; it’s about new high-quality products that people wouldn’t have without the use of new technologies and IoT.

Why are people still skeptical?
My answer is based on the previous experience. I think people are often skeptical about costs. They don’t believe they will have enough benefits from the IoT solutions to repay their costs, so they won’t be able to withstand what they have initially invested. It is true that now the costs of IoT solutions are higher than revenues, but from my experience, I know that people, who actually use IoT solutions, see its potential and know that their investment will pay off. Sensors are becoming cheaper every day, technology is getting faster, so I’m sure that we’re heading in the right direction.

Where do companies usually make mistakes?
They often try to find the cheapest route. It is not a strategy that brings the best results.

What is the first step a company should take?
Innovativeness is a success for me per se. Whether you want to modernize a traditional business or introduce the IoT solution to the most modern enterprise, you must have an innovative approach. I don’t think that companies specialized in IoT can sell innovation. Innovation must be present in the businesses interested in IoT, and IoT companies should be there only to enable the technical realization.

Can you be more specific?
For example, cities that want to provide a better quality of life for their citizens through better transportation, water or heating systems, should have a clear idea what they want and how they want it, and then they should connect with the IoT industry and see if it’s feasible. I’m sure that this is the basis of the proper relationship between the organizations and the IoT companies that will lead, sooner or later, to success. It would be wrong for anyone to expect the IoT company to do all the work and to bring the innovative approach.

“For example, cities that want to provide a better quality of life for their citizens through better transportation, water or heating systems, should have a clear idea what they want and how they want it, and then they should connect with the IoT industry and see if it’s feasible.”

Do you think there is a real value for companies in showing an active interest in the IoT?
Of course, back in the past, it was easier. In London, for example, some bookstores are operating for over 100 years. I doubt that any new business would last on the market for so long. The lives of enterprises are becoming increasingly shorter, so you must do something more. If you want to survive on the market, you should be fast and offer added value. You must be innovative to keep the market share and withstand the competition.

What is there yet to come in the world of the Internet of Things?
We’ll see! IoT is an industry in its infancy. I have recently spoken with the CIO of Lufthansa, a company which has introduced a lot of IoT solutions during the last few years. He asked me if I consider myself being an expert on the IoT. I said I don’t. He said the same thing too, although both of us have five or more years’ experience in this field. No one knows the future of the IoT  and where exactly it is going, but we surely know, undoubtedly, that the experience solely will bring greater accuracy and better results. We need to think about IoT and experiment with it. It’s not just about money; it’s about finding innovation. Who knows, maybe it is closer than we think.

Which businesses are already having success with the IoT?
Last year we witnessed IoT boom in the consumer industry. Fridges have displays connected with smartphones, which send messages that there’s no more beer. This is just the beginning, which will move us forward. I am deliberately talking about the consumer market because the industry is still reluctant to the IoT. History confirms that the industry is usually the last area in which technological innovations are widely accepted, but eventually – when it happens – it will be a huge boom.

Guest blog: Wolkabout Technologies. Wolkabout will be exhibiting at the upcoming IoT Tech Expo Europe in Berlin on the 1-2 June 2017. Find them at stand 271.

*This article was created in the cooperation with Sindiko and was originally published in the Takeplace online magazine.

(c) istockphoto.com/ nikada | MATJAZ SLANIC 

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Sigfox introduces new GPS-free IoT service

Sigfox, a France-based company that builds wireless networks to connect low-energy objects, has recently unveiled a new GPS-free, Internet of Things (IoT) service that revolutionizes the way packages are tracked. The new service will enable shipping companies to effectively track shipments around the world without the need to pay a premium.

Apart from the expensive costs of acquiring a GPS service, the standard today is that companies also pay for the high maintenance fees of servicing tracking equipment. As such, GPS tracking is usually reserved exclusively for tracking high-valued items, and is uneconomical for the mass tracking of shipments.

Spot’it is Sigfox’s newest service which aims to not only offer low-cost tracking services for shipping companies but also make tracking available for mass freight shipments. Enabled by the French company’s global network, which operates in over 30 countries, Sigfox’s module will act as a geolocation device that can be tracked by Spot’it.

“The service is integrated into Sigfox’s network, and embodies the first ever global IoT geolocation assistance. When a tracking device is registered in Sigfox’s cloud, the geolocation service becomes available in all areas where the network is present.”

The service is integrated into Sigfox’s network, and embodies the first ever global IoT geolocation assistance. When a tracking device is registered in Sigfox’s cloud, the geolocation service becomes available in all areas where the network is present.

What makes Spot’it low-cost is that it does not require any additional hardware or software updates. In addition, the device doesn’t need to transmit messages for the GPS to work, and also doesn’t have to rely on energy-hungry GPS technology to function.

Customarily, companies track their items in transit by either scanning packages at the point of arrival. However, scanning only upon arrival means the procedure is prone to losses and errors, specifically in third-world countries where customs officials are unsupervised when opening shipment boxes. With Spot’it, companies can track their packages in real time.

Spot’it is not only set to transform the global freight industry, but we anticipate that new services will be developed,” said Laetitia Jay, the Chief Marketing Officer for Sigfox. “Imagine a new service where shipping companies can be alerted when containers stray into regions that they aren’t supposed to be in. From fraud detection to new insurance and geo-marketing business models, the possibilities are endless.

“Spot’it is not only set to transform the global freight industry, but we anticipate that new services will be developed,” said Laetitia Jay, the Chief Marketing Officer for Sigfox. “Imagine a new service where shipping companies can be alerted when containers stray into regions that they aren’t supposed to be in. From fraud detection to new insurance and geo-marketing business models, the possibilities are endless.”

The use of GPS or Global Positioning System technology has greatly evolved since its integration into mobile devices. When it was first launched, it was only useful for planning traffic routes through apps like Waze. However now, a variety of innovative applications such as Spot’it are changing the way people live.

Apart from tracking people and shipments, GPS is also used to help people with visual impairments navigate streets and cities. According to Telogis, an app developed by Sendero Group LLC uses GPS to guide blind users to their target location as well as navigating them past objects that may be obstructing their path. The app was developed in association with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, an Australia-based company that offers guide dogs and mobility services to those who need them.

About Sigfox

Sigfox has built a global network to connect devices from all over the world to the Internet while consuming very little energy. The company’s revolutionary approach to device-to-cloud communications addresses the three major barriers to global IoT adoption: cost, energy consumption, and global scalability. The company was founded in 2010 by Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet in Labège, which is referred to as France’s “IoT Valley”. Sigfox has satellite offices in Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, Singapore, Paris, Madrid, and Munich.

Sigfox will be sponsoring the IoT Tech Expo Europe 2017 in Berlin on the 1-2nd June where Aurelius Wosylus, Director Sales & Partners Germany at Sigfox will be leading the keynote session: Keynote: Massive IoT from the low cost and low power perspective. The talk will take place on Thursday 1st June at 2:50pm and will take place within the free conference track; Developing for the IoT.

(c) istockphoto/ tawanlubfah & Pixabay

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IoT projects getting better than expected results – with mass adoption due by 2019

MWC A new study from Aruba argues businesses who adopt the Internet of Things (IoT) could experience better than expected results.

The wide-ranging survey, which polled more than 3,000 IT and business decision makers across 20 countries, found almost half of respondents (46%) found business efficiency increases in their implementations, compared with only 29% who were expecting it. Profit gains, with 32% realisation and only 16% expectation, saw the same pattern.

Derek Howard, worldwide IoT marketing manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), the parent company of Aruba, describes it as an ‘expectations dividend’. “There were a lot of benefits gained [which were] far greater than originally expected, and so there was a big disparity,” he tells IoT News.

I think one of the things we’re seeing is that as enterprises in this industry are deploying IoT, they really are seeing greater than expected evidence, and I think this is really going to accelerate adoption over the next two years,” he adds.

The research focused on the sectors HPE feels are the horses to bet on going forward – enterprise, industrial, healthcare, retail, and government – and as such the results brought back some impressive numbers. 62% of respondents in the industrial sector and 60% in healthcare say they are already implementing some form of IoT, while four in five (81%) of retailers say IoT has helped improve their customer experience.

“It’s worth noting as well that as one industry moves, another could join it soon after. Take smart cities, for instance, where in order for the whole utopian vision to work all sorts of technologies, from smart traffic lights to connected cars, will have to interact.”

In many of these cases, education is an important factor. “I think a lot of people know the term IoT, but they don’t understand what it really means or the business impact and what that means to them,” says Howard. “Where it hits the ground is in a lot of very specific use cases that are being deployed within the industry; to the extent that education is high in terms of understanding that, I think the adoption rate corresponds.”

This ties in with one of the more interesting parts of the report around how IoT technologies can influence employees as well as wider industries. More than seven in 10 (72%) respondents said they have introduced smart devices into their workplace, with remote monitoring and indoor location-based services the key use cases, and operation of building lighting and temperature the main benefit yet to come. Another example is enabling meeting spaces to be more efficiently used. While there have already been inroads into this, it’s an interesting implementation; Howard sums this up as ‘guiding people where they need to be effectively’.

It’s worth noting as well that as one industry moves, another could join it soon after. Take smart cities, for instance, where in order for the whole utopian vision to work all sorts of technologies, from smart traffic lights to connected cars, will have to interact.

HPE sees the opportunity in three main buckets of enterprise, wide-area, and industrial, as Howard explains – “IoT is very much an ecosystem play right now” – and predicts ‘mass adoption’ by 2019 as a result of these better-than-expected results today. Alongside the research, Aruba has commissioned a short book from Kevin Ashton, the man who originally coined the term IoT; and it is this opportunity for businesses, almost two decades on, which shines through in the project.

Since its inception in 1999, the Internet of Things has been ridiculed, criticised, and misunderstood,” Ashton wrote, “and yet here we are, less than two decades later, in a world where tens of thousands of organisations are saving and making hundreds of millions of dollars from the Internet of Things, using cars that drive themselves, subway stations that sense passengers, algorithms that diagnose deadly diseases using phones, and many other once apparently impossible technologies.

The future promises far more amazing things; the most important decision you can make now is how to be a part of it.

You can find out more about the research here.

Originally published on IoT News.

(c)iStock.com/zhudifeng / easyturn

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US ready to adopt voice control technology, survey argues

A survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate and Vivint Smart Home has found that Americans are ready to adopt voice control technology, while many are already using the feature.

“The survey revealed that 72% of Americans who have smart home products, controlled connected gadgets, such as a smartphone, table, computer, or by a separate automatic system within the home itself remotely.”

The survey revealed that 72% of Americans who have smart home products, controlled connected gadgets, such as a smartphone, table, computer, or by a separate automatic system within the home itself remotely. Among this same group, 81% of parents who have smart home products desire to control them via voice activation. The survey also found 48% of Americans currently having voice control capability in the smart home products they own.

The main reason consumers want to use the voice control feature is ‘smart entertainment’; more than half (57%) of Americans who own smart home products with voice control function use the feature to control smart entertainment, such as playing music, or controlling smart TVs and speaker systems. Moreover, 33% of consumers with smart home products control lighting, security products and shopping through voice control feature.

“More than half (57%) of Americans who own smart home products with voice control function use the feature to control smart entertainment, such as playing music, or controlling smart TVs and speaker systems.”

Vivint has been busy pushing this message across in recent weeks. At CES earlier this month, the company introduced a comprehensive intelligent home with Sky, claimed as the “first true smart home assistant”. Sky uses artificial intelligence and can automatically manage connected devices in a home, as well as using data from the home’s sensors and devices to understand whether the location is occupied or vacant. It also adapts to a homeowner’s routine and learns about an owner’s preferences.

A recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), found that approximately two-thirds of Americans (62%), of the 1,200+ US adults surveyed, own at least one IoT connected device.

Originally published on IoT News. (c)iStock.com/chombosan & Kalawin | Amazon

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