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02 Sep

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Tectonic Shifts #01: The Internet of Things (IoT)

September 2, 2014 | By |

 

Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

What happens when you connect everything to the internet? The umbrella term Internet of Things (IoT) describes a wide range of technologies and applications ranging from sensor-packed, connected homes (Smart Home) to Wearables (connected fitness bands, smart watches) to networked factories or logistics centers (M2M, or machine-to-machine communications). The field is split between consumer-focused products on one hand and large-scale industrial applications on the other. While the estimates about market sizes and impact differ dramatically, everyone agrees that it’s huge, and growing fast. No matter which industry your company is in, this is not a topic to be ignored.

Numbers/impact

The exact estimates on the size of the market differ dramatically depending on who does the estimation and on how the market is defined. The one thing all parties agree on is that the market volume and impact are huge, fast growing and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg yet.

 

Some of the ball park figures often quoted in the industry and their sources:

  • USD 14.4 trillion value created between 2013 and 2022 (Cisco)
  • From 2 billion connected objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020 (Intel)
  • IoT market USD 7.1 trillion by 2020 (IDC)
  • More than 50 billion connected devices by 2020 (Ericsson)
  • “it will dwarf any other market” (Freescale & ARM)
  • “potential economic impact of the Internet of Things to be $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion per year by 2025” (McKinsey)

What does this mean for society & industries?

For the industries involved – which might very well be almost all industries to some degree – the growing role of the IoT means

  • large potential for innovation
  • access to new data-driven business models as new services can be built around user data and responsive devices
  • the software side of hardware and consumer devices becomes more relevant as hardware and software merge into new services and products

 

For the society at large, a utopian view of the IoT would assume…

  • a more responsive environment;
  • empowering technologies like connected systems and tools to allow seniors to live autonomously longer;
  • increasingly computer/robot driven economic growth;

 

A more dystopian view would instead assume…

  • large-scale security issues due to increasingly networked devices without sufficient emphasis on security and safety;
  • a control (rather than empowering) infrastructure controlled by large conglomerates or governments that fosters compliance and consumption over citizen participation;
  • ubiquitous surveillance through connected devices that spy on their users;

 

In other words, privacy and participation become a salient design and product issue.

Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?

The IoT and its implications on the availability of data from ubiquitous sensors have impact across most industries. Most directly impacted:

  • design and product development companies since new categories of products become possible;
  • manufacturing and logistics companies (from automotive and aerospace to cargo transport firms) as sensors allow for real-time tracking and predictive maintenance of factories, production lines and logistics networks;
  • consumer electronics companies as the internet and connectedness becomes a default for consumer devices;

Risks & opportunities

Risks:

  • privacy and security implications are key concerns in connected, data-intense services and products;
  • standards wars and incompatibility between proprietary solutions;
  • data ownership can be tricky;

 

Opportunities:

  • new business models and product categories;
  • products and services aren’t “done” when they’re shipped, as the connection and customer relationship stays relevant over time (software updates, etc.)
  • potential cost savings in industrial settings thanks to real-time information (predictive maintenance, real-time tracking, etc.)

Resources, key players, links

The big players are Cisco, Bosch, Intel, IBM. There is an unusually wide range of other large corporates, SMEs, startups and independent players. Really, the IoT is one of the few fields in which everyone dabbles.

A note

With ThingsCon, I co-founded a conference that focuses heavily on IoT and the new hardware industry. The next ThingsCon will take place in May 2015.

 

To learn more, read what this series is all about and see all articles of Tectonic Shifts.