Q1: How did you get into the connected device space?
A1: I started looking into M2M, as it was then, back in 2010 as an industry analyst. The whole space seemed to have so much potential that a colleague (Matt Hatton) and I set up Machina Research in 2011. That year we want to Mobile World Congress with 7-8 slides describing our vision for a new analyst and consulting firm focussed on the connected device space. The near universal response was to ‘come back when we’d delivered the vision’, which we did. Approaching six years later, we had become the leading firm of industry analysts in the space, and sold the company to Gartner. Along the way, I co-authored a book on ‘Enterprise IoT’, and also participated in various advisory boards for IoT conferences and industry development groups. I’m still Chair of Business Strategy for the Industrial Internet Consortium, the leading vendor-side industry body.
Q2: And how has the industry changed in that time?
A2: Back in 2010, the term IoT was practically unheard of. When we founded Machina Research, we put ‘Advisors in M2M, IoT and Big Data’ as a strap line, and I was frequently asked about interoperability testing! The term LPWA didn’t exist (I coined that acronym in early 2013), and 3GPP were firmly pointed in the direction of next generation technologies being about higher speed. Today’s Application Enablement Platforms didn’t exist (this concept was really introduced by ThingWorx in 2013, although Bosch Software Innovation and a few others were doing similar things at around the same time). And then there were the early forecasts of 50bn connected devices by 2020, which many (incorrectly) believed would all be mobile cellular connected devices. All of which goes to suggest: we’ve come a long way in the last 10 years.
Q3: What is the most common thing that you are asked by companies trying to participate in IoT?
A3: Well, people still ask for ‘the answer’. If there is one single truth about IoT, it is that there is no such thing as a ‘the answer’. Answers always depend on context. For instance the connectivity technology that a company might choose for a new device type depends on a vast array of factors, including (and not limited to): commercial model; required reliability; latency requirements; number of devices; the location of devices; battery life requirements and access to power; required data speeds; attitudes to risk; expected lifespan in the market (as a commercial offering, and in the case of a single deployment). The list is nearly endless, and includes really intangible concepts such as ‘personal preference’ and ‘management team experience’. And, of course, all of these factors can be blended together in different ways for different products and services that occupy different market positionings. This aspect of IoT is becoming better understood, but there’s some way to go yet.
Q4: What is the dumbest thing that you have seen in the market lately?
A4: Battalions of people running around like their hair is on fire asserting that ‘you can’t have enough security’. Well, they’re wrong. You can have enough security, and, indeed, it is possible to have too much security. Is it not intuitively obvious that a nuclear plant needs better security than a peanut processing plant? So if you implemented ‘nuclear power plant’ security at a peanut processing plant, then it would be too much, right? In any case, the concept of ‘security’ in IoT is rapidly reaching its’ sell-by date, and the concept of ‘Trustworthiness’ is far more useful. Trustworthiness augments security with four other concepts (Resilience, Reliability, Safety and Privacy) that together combine to describe the way that end users should be able to rely on IoT solutions. Check the September 2018 edition of the Industrial Internet Consortium’s Journal of Innovation for more discussion on this topic.
Q5: What do the next few years look like in the IoT?
A5: Over the last decade, the IoT ecosystem has come a long way in understanding some of the complexities of deploying IoT solutions. I expect more of the same in coming years. And when people really realise what the risks are around data transparency in the IoT, well, it’ll give the green lobby a run for its’ money!
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