For the M2M and IoT industry the year began with a thunderbolt when the Internet company Google snapped up Smart Home manufacturer Nest Labs for US$ 3.2 bn. That gave the Connected Home, a trend that began to emerge in 2013, a definite boost. In the course of the year manufacturers unveiled both connected domestic appliances such as smoke alarms and coffeemakers and wearables like fitness bracelets or smartwatches. So far, however, consumers have been reluctant to buy connected products. According to an Acquity Group study, only four percent of more than 2,000 consumers interviewed in the United States own a Smart Home device. By 2019, however, their numbers are forecast to increase to 69 percent. So next year should see both a wider range of offerings and an upturn in demand. We presented further findings of this study in October under the heading “Consumers Discover the Internet of Things.”
Evolution, not revolution
Digital connectivity has made further headway in industry too. The most important lesson learnt this year is that what we are experiencing is not a revolution but evolutionary digitization of industrial processes. That is already changing maintenance of plant and machinery fundamentally. The control unit alerts the maintenance personnel automatically by e-mail or text, for example, if a previously specified threshold is breached. Field service can then be sent out without delay to rectify the error.
In our interview with Prith Banerjee, Managing Director of Global Technology R&D at Accenture, it became clear, however, that the simplification of workflows of this kind is only the first step. He said:
The greater opportunity is the topline growth due to new equipment and digital services that will be unleashed by the IIoT. Companies can boost their revenues significantly when they transform their products into product-service hybrids.
In the years ahead, complex machine learning algorithms will usher in a higher degree of autonomy. Industrial M2M applications from Europe are making a global impact on the Internet of Things, not least by means of initiatives such as the German federal government’s Industrie 4.0 future project.
Platforms and standards as enablers
To manage growing numbers and amounts of devices, data, and users in line with demand, companies rely on cloud-based platforms. These platforms not only assist with administration but also and at the same time provide a construction kit for the Internet of Things. Common standards could make connectivity even simpler. Cumulocity CTO Stefan Vaillant had this to say on the subject in an interview with All about M2M:
We wish to see a plug-and-play standard for the Internet of Things. Users could then connect any device with every platform. Sadly, no such single standard exists at present. But even several standards would be of assistance to the market.
Initial trends like OMA DM Lightweight in device management and OPC UA in industrial automation may be apparent, but it remains to be see whether and when they will prevail. That is why we will continue to keep an eye on developments in this area in the year ahead.
The Internet of Things and people
Connectivity raises further exciting issues. Our guest author Sascha Wolter looked into how we will interact with all the connected machines in the future:
The challenge is to find new forms of interaction that not only fit to a one-on-one relationship between human and machine. They need to be suitable for 1:n scenarios in which the user moves around amid a large number of devices.
Amazon recently took a first step in the direction of the Smart Home by presenting its voice control system ECHO, but installing a connected device with a total of seven microphones in your own home raises issues of data protection and data security. How can the data be transmitted securely? Where is the data to be stored? What measures protedct it from unauthorized access? Which personal data can be evaluated in which circumstances? Answers to these questions in the years ahead will be a decisive factor in ensuring acceptance of M2M/IoT solutions.
Here be dragons
Among seafarers it used to be customary to illustrate dangerous or unknown areas on charts with dragons and sea monsters. Sometimes they simply wrote “Here be dragons.” In M2M and IoT we have discovered many new things this year, but quite a number of dragons and sea monsters still lie ahead. That is why we aim to continue our voyage of discovery in the digitally connected world next year. I hereby invite you to join us once more in 2015 lade and wish you a good start in the New Year.