The Internet of Things is the much discussed next generation of smart technologies to connect a wide selection of home and office appliances into intelligent networks. If you are waiting for the right time to jump in, don’t! Some pundits argue that the IoT is already here and the window is closing.
One of the hottest trends in technology right now is the Internet of Things. Morgan Stanley projects that within the next five years, as many as 75 billion smart connected devices will be communicating with each other via the IoT. Research from Gartner predicts that the IoT will generate nearly $2 trillion in global economic value by 2020.
Unsurprisingly, companies are scrambling to take advantage of the power and opportunities presented by the IoT. The implications are far-reaching – a research report from Gartner suggests that as the IoT becomes more ubiquitous, traditional operating systems like Windows will become obsolete, placing greater value on speed and accessibility.
As IoT gathers strength, a gap is emerging between companies reliant on ageing legacy systems and the growing demand for digital connectivity by consumers. This ‘digital disconnect’ will create challenges for companies across many sectors, including banking, insurance, education, healthcare and manufacturing.
IoT readiness depends on finding a way to unlock the data in legacy systems while migrating to digital platforms that support the stream of real-time data that IoT-connected devices generate. The entire process should be carefully managed in tandem with a qualified service provider, and the resulting computing environment will enable clients to take advantage of the benefits apportioned by IoT.
While the Internet of Things may sound like a new concept, it has been around longer than you might think. The term applies to the myriad objects now available to us that can connect over the internet – smart TVs, heating systems and even fridges. In an office, this includes devices which are linked up via a company’s own internal network, such as printers, copiers, projectors, smart phones and tablets.
The term was first coined in the late 1990s but dates back as far as 1982 when a vending machine at an American university became the first internet-connected machine. At CES this year, Samsung laid claim to leadership in the adoption of IoT technology in its products. Using a CES keynote to take stock of a year of IoT innovation, Dr WP Hong, President of Samsung SDS and the Head of its solution business, said that the Internet of Things was now “in sync with real life” and “delivering real value for consumers, businesses and society at large.”
Samsung presented new components such as an ultra-thin and flexible high-capacity battery and the Bio-Processor, a powerful but extremely small all-in-one healthcare chip.
Dr Hong also demonstrated the rapidly growing range of Samsung devices and appliances that are equipped with IoT technologies for the Smart Home of today, by working with the SmartThings ecosystem. Samsung’s new range of 2016 SUHD TVs, for example, can all be used as IoT hubs. The new Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, with its large 21.5-inch LED display, can be the center of food shopping management, a place for families to share notes, pictures and entertainment, and can even makes it possible to check on your mobile device what’s in the fridge.
Dr Hong said Samsung’s IoT strategy was to promote “openness, interoperability, and cross-industry collaboration”, because they were the underpinnings of IoT success. Seamless connectivity of IoT devices was another important factor to ensure a good IoT experience, said Dr Hong. Samsung is working with its industry partners in the Open Interconnect Consortium to build a truly open connectivity framework called IoTivity.
Samsung showed how the Internet of Things is ready to bring immediate value to our lives. With a broad range of devices, platforms and services – from Smart Mobility and Samsung Pay to healthcare solutions using the Bio-Processor, and the expertise of Samsung SDS, meanwhile, helps companies to transform the quality of their production lines, output, logistics and maintenance services.
Solutions provided by a single vendor have an immediate advantage when confronted by the single largest issue in the IoT world – that of interoperability. The IoT is based on a number of well-established internet and networking protocols, but the way they are implemented and the user interface is far from fully standardised.
Digital transformation specialists Prophet believe that: “More and more companies and products are beginning to emerge that enable interoperability through open-source development. Third party associations like the IEEE are working with global engineering communities to standardize and facilitate collaboration. M2M platform provider Axeda, for example, is dedicated to a “device agnostic” infrastructure, in which they build their cloud platforms to connect and comply with as many different device standards as possible.
Qualcomm’s AllJoyn is made up of an open, secure and universal framework and core set of services that enable interoperability across devices, applications, and operating systems. Sy Choudhury, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualcomm explained: “We want to make the ease and standard of device connectivity what today is equivalent to having your own URL.”
At last month’s IBC show, KAON Smart IoT showed an optimized solution from devices to backend integration to service providers. KAON’s services cover everything from power management to security systems, including devices such as smart plugs, door locks and IP cameras running on a broad range of wireless communication protocols. As a complete user-oriented solution, users can connect, control, monitor, and manage the services both on mobile devices and TV screens, and can enjoy the maximized efficiency and convenience at their command, anywhere and anytime.
“We wanted to create a simplified user interface in the entire system of the connected home so that users can have a smarter, more secure and efficient digital life all the time,” said Jennifer Han, Marketing Director at KAON.
KAON Smart IoT allows users and operators to tailor solutions for each service. These end-to-end solutions empower operators to create new revenue streams and opportunities to monetise their new businesses by creating innovative service models and providing improved user experience with better interoperability and flexibility.
In the UK, RGB Communications is among the first distributor to announce the formation of an Internet of Things (IoT) division. The new IoT division is designed to open up to an entirely different market for the distributor. The IoT business revolves around increased device-to-device communications, potentially making everyday home technology from thermostats to televisions, and everything in between.
Having had “great success” with the recent launch of the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Protect, Nest Cam and accessories, RGB will be adding a number of other IoT related products in this key growth area. “The IoT market has the potential to transform the way we live our lives, as well as the very fabric of Commercial and Residential Installations. This view is widely held amongst industry experts and precisely why RGB are setting up a dedicated division.” Andy Atwell, Sales Director of RGB Communications.
Nest, along with many other IoT products have great appeal to the mid-market as well as the high-end. “Although many IoT products are relatively low cost and low margin, clients are becoming aware of devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat and are specifically asking their AV installer for them.” commented David Webster, RGB’s Chief Technology Officer.
This combination of low cost, wide market appeal and high demand result in a massive opportunity for RGB and its customer’s to maximise business opportunities in this area. “The IoT market place is going to be a very busy place in the coming months. Please contact us if you would like any information on Nest, our training dates or general information about how IoT can fit into your business.”
IoT and the channel
So who is best placed to turn the IoT concept into a business reality? Early adopters of IoT technology are likely to be in the residential sector. Here, the custom install community have been familiar with the Connected Home concept over the last seven or eight years. Connected Home solutions are based around proprietary, and therefore largely vendor specific technologies and so met with limited success. The IoT market, as a technology with almost unlimited potential is much more likely to migrate into the commercial sector.
The technology majors, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, and like, are exhibiting much greater enthusiasm. They recognise the potential value of involvement with both connected devices and the promise of helping to making the world more connected. Nate Williams of Greenwave Systems, draws a distinction between selling the IoT and selling the potential of the IoT.
To move to a situation where we are selling solutions rather than concepts we need the commitment of the IT and CE majors and the support of consumers and business end-users. We also need to work harder to educate the market about the IoT – a commitment that requires an investment in people and resources. Those willing to make the investment have an opportunity to take a leadership position in this potentially huge emerging market.
IoT – the skills roster
The Internet of Things is a logical development in the basic idea of the internet: interconnecting devices with computing power. It is fair to assume that intelligence will be added to many more devices and, therefore, that a comprehensive realisation the Internet of Things is very close.
Who is best placed to take advantage of the opportunities that the IoT generates? Thomas Walter, Section Manager Strategic Product Marketing, Product Manager – Public Display Solutions, NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH suggests that: “IT-based knowledge, like networking, is mandatory for many applications, like videoconferencing or digital signage, already. IT and AV will both remain individual markets with dedicated focus areas, but both areas will have to use know-how that originally comes from ‘the other side’. Those achieving success will be the integrators that will satisfy the customer’s needs. Customers need AV and IT support at the same time. It’s no longer a question of AV or IT – it must be AV and IT with a specific focus.”
“Technological developments always provide potential for differentiation and unique market positions – appearing to both sides, manufacturers and the channel/integrators. The ones offering IoT solutions first will have a greater chance to provide a solution fitting the customer needs best and being successful.”
Fortunately, displays are ready for integration in an Internet of Things concept, in any kind of application. For example, a product shelf in a store can be connected to the IoT through sensor integration. If the sensor measures that a product is sold out, automated information is send to the employees asking for refilling and the content of the Digital Signage screen is automatically changed to a product that is still available for sales, right now. This will make Digital Signage more effective and increases the revenue opportunity for retail stores. The more intelligent displays get, the easier the integration – and the greater the opportunities for the channel.
NEC’s Thomas Walter: “Customers need AV and IT support at the same time. It’s no longer a question of AV or IT – it must be AV and IT with a specific focus.”
IoT fact 1:
The number of connected devices will reach 50 billion by 2020. The number of connected devices surpassed total global population in 2008. [source: Cisco]
IoT fact 2:
Annual growth in connected objects from 2015 to 2016 will be 39%, jumping from roughly over 1.1 to 1.6 billion objects. Some industries are experiencing a sharp increase: “In 2016, commercial security cameras and webcams as well as indoor LEDs will drive total growth, representing 24 percent of the IoT market for smart cities”. [source: Gartner]
IoT fact 3:
48% of IoT adopters are using it to support large-scale business transformation. More than a third say they already run their entire organisation on IoT. And adopters are assigning more of their IT budget to IoT than to cloud, analytics or mobile. [source: Vodafone]
IoT fact 4:
63% of adopters say they have seen “significant” ROI, up from 59% in 2015. And, on average, adopters are measuring a huge 20% increase in key business performance indicators like revenue, cost and asset utilisation as a result of using IoT. [source: Vodafone]
IoT fact 5:
IoT elements in Smart Commercial Buildings currently head the table of demand. This category will continue to be in the lead until 2018 when the installed base of Smart Home devices will surpass the total when measure in units. [source: Gartner]
IoT vertical markets: (1) education
Alistair Hayward, Promethean’s Head of UKI & ANZ, believes ah Comment attributed to: Alistair Hayward, Promethean’s Head of UKI & ANZ
The Internet of Things (IoT) is as prevalent in education as it is in residential applications. You only have to look at the sudden rise in third party devices which are designed to enhance traditional front-of-class presentations for evidence of this.
As the intelligent hub of the convergent classroom, ActivPanel enables teachers to bring in programmable devices such as Dot and Dash or SPRK Robots – all designed to make coding fun for kids. But instead of being standalone applications requiring extensive set up; they seamlessly integrate through the ActivPanel’s Bluetooth capability, while student devices can contribute to the lesson via the Wi-Fi-enabled mirroring feature.
This advancement in the role of the display device has been a natural evolution driven by the way lessons are delivered and how students consume content in a technologically modern world. Their desire for ‘digital snacking’ has made the use of multiple devices in a classroom more popular while manufacturers have responded by making the systems converge and much easier to use.
The reality of IoT is quite simple. It is already here. And our partners are already on board with it because it is a key value proposition when demonstrating how the ActivPanel can be used in a classroom environment. Now, we don’t necessarily emphasise the IoT message because that’s generally too much jargon for our customers… but the functionality that is on offer, and that we continue to develop – very much puts IoT front of mind.
IoT vertical markets: (2) Digital Signage
The Internet of Things will heavily influence and change how Digital Signage is operated, argues Thomas Walter, Section Manager Strategic Product Marketing, Product Manager – Public Display Solutions, NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH.
In the retail sector for example, connecting devices and products offers scope for retailers to answer the critical question “who is my customer?” NEC leafengine software is already today allowing context aware signage for the first time enabling retailers to know their customer’s needs and therefore provide personalised and dynamic information about the products they are interested in.
“We believe that digital signage in retail will become more effective and successful when the information transferred is of real interest to the shoppers. Accurate audience measurement achieved by NEC Field Analyst allows the detailed measurement of target groups and their personalised approach.”
NEC software solutions not only provide the possibility to interact with customers on a customised level, it also allows shop owners to analyse and measure their marketing activities. Receiving detailed feedback about who is visiting a retailer’s stores, when and for how long, will allow the retailer to plan and improve marketing campaigns and to match personnel requirements accordingly.