Global Tech Internet of Things

Post-CES, Four Questions about the Internet of Things

If you watched the television coverage of CES last week, you probably think that all that the attendees talked about were things like connected refrigerators, bras that monitor your heart rate, and, of course, autonomous vehicles.  You wouldn’t be far off. While the past few years have also showcased unique connected devices (a fork in 2014, a toothbrush in 2015, etc.), the Internet of Things definitely dominated this year across all categories from the home to healthcare to automotive.  As we are now at a point where it seems inevitable that more or less everything will eventually be connected, it raises new security, business, and technical questions that will need to be addressed by manufacturers, network providers, marketers, consumers, and everyone participating in the IoT ecosystem. Here are some thoughts generated by a few days at CES.


How will IoT will change the relationship between manufacturers, distributors, and consumers?

The North Hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center is where all the automotive manufacturers had big booths filled with shiny objects. During the many connected car conversations there, a big topic was the future of over-the-air software updates.  As cars become big computers on wheels, the state of their software becomes a huge differentiating factor. Tesla is already updating its vehicles’ software over wireless networks, for example recently with their Auto Pilot semi-autonomous mode upgrade. But the Wired article[LINK] about hackers taking control of a Jeep on the highway, has highlighted the potential security risks. Cars that can be updated over the air can potentially be interfered with by hackers. But is security the reason manufacturers will delay over-the-air updates or is it more the pressures emanating from their dealer networks?  Auto dealers, the ones who actually sell you the cars, get paid by the manufacturer to do software updates along with other repairs and maintenance. They also use the time to engage and build their relationship with the consumer.  Like in many industries, if the manufacturer starts to connect directly with the consumer, it begins to disintermediate the middleman–the distributor, retailer, or in this case the car dealer.


What are the new businesses and models will leverage the data generated by IoT?

Why should the warranty for a washing machine be based on how long you have owned it, rather than on the number of washes it has performed?  In a world where everything is connected, we will find ways to improve inefficient business models that we previously accepted without question.  Even large-scale farming will be revolutionized by data, predicts Farmers Business Network co-founder Charles Baron, who we met at CES.  By collecting data from connected tractors and combines, combining it with yield and weather data, and correlating that with seed type, chemicals, and anonymized data from other farmers, Farmers Business Network aims to help farmers make more informed decisions and be more profitable.


Will interoperability be key to the adoption of IoT in the home?

Two years ago Nest CEO Tony Fadell explained to me a scenario where a Nest carbon monoxide detector is triggered and tells a Nest thermostat to shut off your furnace.  What about turning off a Bosch oven, opening a Lift Master garage door, or communicating to an Canary-connected home monitoring system?  Consumers will derive value from the Internet of Things the more the growing number of devices can communicate and learn from each other.  Although Samsung and others will try to dominate the connected home, open standards and APIs will need to prevail for your car, wearables, and devices from many manufacturers scattered throughout your home to work together.


Whose responsibility is it to secure the IoT?

Everyone is talking about security, but it will take everyone from chip manufacturers to software companies to carriers and network providers to address it properly.  Each will play their own role in provisioning and permissioning, or the ability to read and write data.  Why would any user be granted the rights to send a signal that kills a Jeep’s engine while it is moving?  The IoT will only be as secure as the weakest link in the value chain.

Sensors, connectivity, storage, and analytics have enabled us to connect, control, and collect data from increasingly anything we desire.  Technological hurdles will be overcome as the enabling technologies continue to mature and the growth of the Internet of Things will accelerate.  The businesses with the greatest opportunity will be those that understand how to harness the ecosystem, leverage the data, and build innovative business models, while maintaining a highly secure and trusted relationship with its users.


Techonomy’s theme for 2016 is “Man, Machines, and the Network: How the Internet of Things Transforms Business and Society.” It will loom large at our Techonomy 2016 conference Nov. 9-11 in Half Moon Bay, California, and at our Techonomy New York event May 26.

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