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Demystifying IoT: An Entrepreneurs Guide to “Smart” Everything

Last updated: February 2, 2017

In one of my previous posts, I have outlined how important it is for founders to have expertise in the product or service they are trying to pitch. Not only is it important to know your product in and out but also from various angles like customer perception, estimated demand, manufacturing capacities and requirements among others.

Therefore, even if you have a stellar IoT idea about a smart thermostat or a smart switch that redefines every home, you must understand the concept, scope, and challenges that venturing into IoT can bring.

Evenything About Internet of Things

In a nutshell, you need to demystify IoT and make it something you are in sync with

IoT can be poetically explained as the material world around you, interacting with itself.

With wireless technology, cloud computing, and big data powering modern life, almost everything that can be connected and tracked over the Internet will be. Don’t believe me… search the net, and you will find that IoT is making giant leaps across all the key sectors like Automobile, Agriculture, Healthcare, and Telecommunication.

The GPS in your car is an example of IoT application. Farmers in the United States are readily using smart infrared sensors to get soil nutritional levels directly on their smartphones. Apps like Sleep Better track your sleep using wireless algorithms to create your perfect rem cycle.

Wearables are instantly tracking heartbeat and calorie consumption thus, giving people more independent access to health information. I can go on and on but to summarize, IoT is enabling solutions across sectors.

The simple process of embedding sensors and electric relays into daily-use devices is allowing free flow of sufficient information where machines provide us with alerts and feedback.

The universe Tesla imagined is finally coming to life. Sadly, the very nature of it is still industrial 

The Internet of Things in totality is a massive network where interconnected devices allow continuous flow of relevant information

The vision behind IoT is to blur the lines between the animate and the inanimate. You can notice the disruptive trend yourself. Most of the devices that were part of our daily lives have gone digital (from your wristwatch to even your car!).

The immediate consequence is that we can manage things better. This happens as redundant processes that needed human attention for information extraction have been taken over by smart devices.

You can quite comfortably say today, which your smartphone is undoubtedly an extension of yourself. With IoT, almost your entire immediate environment will act as a personal extension, consistently in contact with the cloud, consistently making decisions, consistently taking actions and sending your conscious the updates that matter!

The opportunities are phenomenal

IDC has estimated that almost 30 billion devices will be installed and connected to the IoT by 2020. Therefore, the opportunities for proactive entrepreneurs as well as customers are phenomenal.

Imagine your day going like this… 

As and when your wake up time approached, the alarm clock signals your coffee maker to brew a fresh cup in 30 minutes. As the coffee is brewed, the coffee maker relays a message to your electric cooking console to prepare a lavish breakfast for you.

Seems like perfection, doesn’t it?

The applications are nowhere limited to daily living. Business will gain the most. Business processes will increasingly get automated. Almost all redundant professions like analytics, teaching, accounting, and taxation will become obsolete and only require guidance.

Businesses could create more efficiencies and optimized output by applying IoT to business processes, personalized offerings, predictive notifications, dynamic marketing and what not.

For instance, you could walk into a mall and just scan the QR code of the product you wish to purchase. All relevant information will be available on your smart-screen.

Another example is that of dynamic digital costing where prices of shelf products would be displayed in digital and get slashed based on the way consumers react to it. It may sound scrupulous, but the cost implementations are far better compared to traditional channels available today.

Businesses will maintain inventories that manage themselves. A service provider could well have a remote ops center connected to machinery equipment collecting all vital signals coming in and further analyzing them to correlate patterns and undertake prognostic maintenance.

Here is the broad scope of futuristic IoT laid out for you

Infrastructure

  • Monitoring Pollution Levels
  • Predictive Maintenance of equipment (will decrease annual depreciation adjustments)
  • Smart electronics and lighting
  • Predictive Weather Monitoring and consequent action

Urban Planning

  • Smart Cities
  • Smart Grids
  • Waste Management
  • Emergency Alerts
  • Disaster Notifications
  • Real-time security surveillance

Life Sciences and Healthcare

  • Patient Care
  • Elderly surveillance
  • Intelligent tagging in hospitals
  • Remote diagnostics
  • Predictive Medical Equipment maintenance

Consumer/Living

  • Infotainment
  • Remote-controlled appliances
  • Monitoring Utilities and automated restacking alerts
  • Fire/Smoke Detection

Transport

  • Smart parking
  • Drone delivery
  • Real time package monitoring
  • Telematics
  • Traffic Routing

We can foray into more sectors, but I guess my point is clear. Entrepreneurs looking to exploit the IoT opportunities to their advantage and bask in the orgy of wealth it is bound to produce must understand the diverse applications.

This understanding will help you to think proactively and develop actionable solutions with excellent potential.

Take notes from last year’s acquisition of Nest (smart smoke detection) by Google for $3.2 billion. It is clear that opportunity is out there, but unless your idea isn’t differentiated, the competition will crush you.

Therefore, to culminate, let’s see what the foundations of IoT are

Each and every IoT application revolves around three confounding variables:

01. Sensors

Build out of tiny semiconductor chips (it’s more complex than that, but it starts here!); sensors detect and transmit unique data for an event. This data can be about location, temperature, speed, machine reading, and usage levels.

In a nutshell… it can be anything.

02. Connectivity

This variable is of prime importance. The nature of IoT connectivity is completely wireless. It is critical to ensuring that all relevant information reaches from the producer (of information) to the prime user.

03. People and Processes

It is this founding variable over which the success of your idea depends on. Well, it depends on how well you assess, estimate and analyze this part.

The elements of this subset can be infinite as there is no limit to the combinations and permutations that IoT can fathom. It may include stuff like location-based services, intelligent operations, emergency response, security surveillance and a lot more like we saw above.

When developing an IoT-based idea, you have to define these variables clearly. Therefore, it is important that you understand each from your business’ point of view, the product and your final consumer.

In spite the goldmine of opportunities, IoT is not completely devoid of challenges

Debates regarding IoT often pose these concerns, which are genuine:

  • Privacy concerns regarding what to monitor and what not to
  • Concerns regarding ownership of data (does the supplying organization own it or the user owns it)
  • Lack of personal touch as every entity is ideally an IP address.
  • Communication barriers like language and demographics when it comes to applying certain solutions globally.
  • Managing huge amount of data
  • Large scale adoption may be difficult in the short term

However, it is quite evident that most of these challenges can be controlled and even completely nullified if handled in a planned manner. What is essential to see the infinite scope it presents and how IoT will be the next leap in human evolution…

When we will have an extended consciousness, interacting with the rest of the world, material and immaterial through the cloud!

The market for existing IoT was USD 1.3 trillion in 2013. According to IDC, it is poised to cross USD 3 trillion by 2020 with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13%.

Clearly, this means that the opportunities for business are immense.

The relevance of people who can understand and consult on the IoT will also jump, and these guys will form one of the most lucrative job ecosystems in the time to come.

Sensors RFIDs and QR devices produce data in real time and therefore, have a big requirement for 24*7 delivery, respond quickly. Therefore, the people who maintain these frameworks in the backend will have to be highly skilled.

As entrepreneurs venture into the IoT, they must not be overconfident with their next big idea.

Accept and realize that wireless connectivity is everywhere. Everything you develop will face stiff competition. The key is to be proficient and apply maximum effort that is needed to synthesize and make use of such huge volumes of data and networking. 

To sum it up, as more and more devices are brought to virtual life, we can imagine a digital nervous system backed by connectivity and machine learning. All kinds of technologies, businesses, industries and finally people will benefit from it in one way or the other.

Therefore, if you want to tap into this ocean of opportunities, then you must place yourself, upgrade your capabilities and start making informed decisions.

Demystifying IoT: An Entrepreneurs Guide to “Smart” Everything
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