Stijn Schuermans

The currency of the Internet of Things is data

The currency of the Internet of Things is data

In last week’s blog post, we said that IoT is breaking free from Internet and Things. That is, Internet of Things is not about how to add a service to my product, but about turning the information generated by all those sensors, devices, things and services into knowledge about the environment and meaningful action. [tweetable]Making sense of data is the core value driver in the Internet of Things[/tweetable]. Let’s explore this idea a bit further. We continue with insights from our most recent publication, IoT Developer Megatrends – a short publication on the most important trends for IoT.

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Adding connectivity and services to existing products and machines often leads to a “one device, one app” situation. This proliferation of apps quickly becomes unwieldy to manage. A basic improvement would be to combine multiple devices into one user experience. Most of the emerging Smart Home solutions (e.g. Ninja Sphere, ImperiHome) focus on the ability to control all your devices from one place.

But why stop there? Services that create knowledge and drive meaningful action by mashing up multiple data sources are on the rise. Not all those sources have to be sensors or devices.

A good example is the Nest Learning Thermostat. To intelligently adjust the temperature in your house, the thermostat uses a lot more info than just the current temperature. It detects your presence with sensors. It talks to other appliances from Nest itself (smoke detectors), Whirlpool (washers), August (locks), Automatic (car adapters), Hue (lights) and others. Nest even works together with electricity companies who pay users to automatically turn down cooling during peak times on the electricity grid. The possibilities to make Nest smarter by pulling in more outside data are endless.

Other good examples are health & fitness platforms like Apple HealthKit or Google Fit. They pull together data from all your wearables, smart scales, apps and more into a full picture of you. That data could also be shared with medical professionals – the birth of a new type of medicine?

It’s easy to see that using more sources of information creates more opportunities for innovation than just connecting a single device, or even than listing multiple devices in a single service. By combining devices in one service, you add up their functionalities. By mashing up data, you multiply possibilities.

However, combining data from different sources presents some tough engineering problems. It comes as no surprise to see the rise of data-centric platforms and tools that help developers to pull together and mash up information. Examples include Samsung’s SmartThings and Apple’s HomeKit in the Smart Home; Dash and Mojio in the car; Validic and Jawbone’s UP platform in health.

A single platform for the Internet of Things?

The insight that mashing up data provides more opportunities for innovation will help us to answer another question that’s on many people’s mind. [tweetable]The Internet of Things is not one market, but a collection of many diverse verticals[/tweetable]: from Smart Home and Wearables to Smart Cities and Industrial IoT. Will a single platform cater to all these verticals, or will sector-specific platforms win out?

At this moment, both types of platform exist. In our IoT Developer and Platform Landscape 2015 report, we list 50+ vertical platforms and a similar amount of general purpose ones. In these early days of the Internet of Things, vertical platforms probably have the advantage: it’s easier for them to create beachhead markets in specific verticals from which to expand. But will this focus hurt them in the long term?

If combining more sources of information leads to more opportunities, then limiting platforms to a single vertical is an unhelpful constraint, not a useful focus. If your car pings your thermostat when you’re about to leave from work, is that a Smart Car scenario, or a Smart Home scenario? Both, and neither. It’s a Smart Life scenario.

At some point, [tweetable]IoT platforms will have to cross vertical boundaries to reach their full potential[/tweetable]. Already, key players like Google, Apple and Samsung are active in all key verticals concurrently. We predict that the top IoT platforms in 2020 will be cross-vertical. Sector-specific platforms will be niche or in decline.

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