Monday, January 26, 2015

IoT Standards Wars vs. Skirmishes

In the Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Home specific space, it is not a standards “war” that is underway, rather, it is a media and consumer mindset “skirmish” that is playing out in the headlines. Do not let such skirmishes deter you from embracing the IoT for Smart Homes with speed.

While, you may worry that Google, Intel, Qualcomm and others are introducing their own “standards” for the Internet of Things, such worry, particularly on top of all the various protocols ranging from Bluetooth to ZigBee to Z-wave, Insteon or even Thread, are not a battle worth fretting over as the key issue in a real standards war is royalty payments, whereas in a skirmish, it’s about headlines and perceived importance. Do not fret over today’s IoT-Smart Home standards skirmishes as they are only about headlines and perceptions.

Not Royalties

IoT in the Smart Home is not facing the same battle as the Blu-ray versus HD DVD standard war of recent video years. In that battle, it was very much about huge royalties to be paid or not, with the loser retreating with only heavy expenses in hand.  The standards battle in the IoT Smart Home space is more a skirmish than outright war. Just look at the number of attempts to roll up functionality into all encompassing “umbrella” plays which are largely being offered royalty free to participants willing to develop marketplace solutions. The skirmish is about perception rather than royalties and that is good for growing your Smart Home business opportunity.

One such umbrella play – AllJoyn – is meant to make it easier to develop and deploy Smart Home products with speed. It began within Qualcomm as a traditional royalty war fighter weapon. However, AllJoyn quickly crossed the chasm into an open-source solution for the good of the industry. The fractured nature of the emerging standards drove their decision and AllJoyn is now a good example of a skirmish won as opposed to the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war lost.  And as a skirmish, Qualcomm’s AllJoyn is likely to find continuing success.

Wireless Protocols

Digging deeper, into the specific IoT Smart Home segment of wireless communication protocols (another skirmish), researchers estimate that the annual product shipments of proprietary wireless technologies for home automation, will double by 2017 (good news for ZigBee, Z-Wave or whoever). However, the market share of those proprietary technology products in Smart Homes, according to the same research, will drop by half versus today given the broader move towards open standards. So arguing over ZigBee, Bluetooth, et al. is to be caught fretting over the skirmish as opposed to the consumers’ hearts and minds waiting to be won in the IoT Smart Home space.

Cloud Power

In the end, it is much easier to embrace multiple protocols and standards in the silicon (the tried and true way) or even better, in the cloud (the new way). Therefore these battles will never brew-to-boil the way the media headlines would have consumers think.

To underscore the power of solving things in the cloud – things that used to be solved locally in silicon – you must recognize that the cloud represents a key functionality shift in these standards skirmishes. Today you have the ability to solve mis-matches of standards and protocols in the cloud where you can readily and cost-effectively deploy the technology weaponry to mitigate the differences with ease.

Is your organization planning for this cloud centric shift accordingly? Are you designing so that as much of the difficult work is done in the cloud as possible? In an age of constant connectivity, it’s not only feasible, it’s easier and more economical to place the bulk horsepower in the cloud and then have your devices leverage it over the network instead of forcing ever bigger brains (and cost) into the silicon at the local device level.

Of course, if you are leveraging available horsepower in the cloud, the burden on your devices to be aware of and compliant with all those standards is also greatly lessened.


In spite of the headline noise, developers, product managers, and executives alike need to embrace as many of the different standards as possible and actively seek ways of keeping their emerging platforms as open to the rapidly evolving IoT Smart Home skirmishes – not wars – as possible.

G2Speaks will continue to probe, poke, and report on standards as appropriate.


So, How Big Is This Internet of Things?

There are lots of numbers out there, though a chart entitled “An Explosion in Connected Devices” from the Harvard Business Review and BI Intelligence does a great job of bringing together a variety of data sources to showcase 20 billion as the total number of devices, by 2018.

This not only shows the huge growth potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), but also the many devices – or “Things” – involved: Wearables, Smart TVs, Tablets, Smartphones, and Personal Computers just within the consumer sphere. When you look at the industrial applications, the potential of IoT really expands.

Want to talk dollars? At CES this past January, Cisco boss John Chambers came to his keynote speech with a barrage of IoT statistics (he calls it the Internet of Everything, to encompass the network and not just the things). The most eye-opening stat was the $19 trillion (with a T) in new revenue Cisco alone believes the IoE can generate by 2020.

Driven by exponential growth in our ability to gather or capture and share or analyze data, new tech will, in Chambers’ words, “…get the right data to the right device at the right time to the right person or machine to be able to make the right decision” Chambers argues that even seemingly inane concepts, like sensor-equipped garbage cans, could produce billions of dollars in efficiency-based savings.

Mr. Chambers summarizes, “If you look back a decade from today at the impact of the Internet of Everything, I predict you will see it will be five to 10 times more impactful than the whole Internet has been today.”

Or, as TV’s Ed Sullivan in the 1960s would have said if he’d been asked about IoT, “It’s gonna be a REALLY BIG SHEW!”

Yet, if it’s as big as all those dollars, and all those items, how can you map out the landscape, so you can actually get traction?

“The Silent Intelligence”

A friend of G2Speaks, Daniel Obodovski, a Stanford grad and former Qualcomm innovator, recently wrote a great book, entitled “The Silent Intelligence”. His premise was to “imagine a future where machines talk back”.  His conclusion was that “the future is now.”

Daniel paints the IoT landscape into three distinct phases:

Data Acquisition

This is the device or hardware part of the picture and the key trick enabling the IoT: all of this hardware – these things – are being loaded with tiny microprocessors and multiple sensors.

A simple example comes from when the team at Digeo in Seattle put an Internet of Things-like temperature probe into the first Moxi DVR, which tended to run a bit too hot. By looking at that data, his Moxi team could tell if someone’s cat or a pile of other stuff was sitting on top of the Moxi, blocking the vents and thus setting up pre-mature hardware failure by creating a heat issue for the product.

Today, a plethora of sensors is everywhere and measuring everything.  Smartphones, which fairly recently graduated to 6-axis sensor orientation, are now moving to a 9-axis orientation, and tightening the tolerances to better improve the precision with which they capture your phone’s movement details.

Data Transport

After all that data gets captured by the sensor, it must be moved or shared somewhere via a wired or wireless network. The big Data Transport advance here is the proliferation of wireless and our rapid approach to ubiquitous connectivity. Without connectivity, the IoT would simply not happen. Today, the near-ubiquity of cellular service (2G, 3G, 4G, LTE) ensures connectivity can always be found. And if cellular doesn’t get it, there is always the pager industry’s bandwidth which is under-utilized today while being perfect for IoT’s typical short bursts of status data.

Data Analysis

Once all that data is collected from sensors in devices, and then transported over the network connectivity, it can be analyzed, interpreted, and acted upon directly. Or, when needed, it can be presented to humans for decisions and action.
Data Analysis within the IoT is gaining strong momentum, because big data and real-time analytics are rapidly becoming core areas of specialization that can deliver real customer value. Arguably, Data Analysis is poised to become the biggest value-creating segment of the IoT as the world begins to realize exactly what can be done when you have huge amounts of tiny yet relevant data ubiquitously connected to engines that will crunch the data, spy trends, suggest actions and more.

A Big Company Example

They don’t come much bigger than GE. And GE is all about value creation. Further, GE is actually proving itself to be quite fleet of foot, when it comes to the Internet of Things.
For instance, GE is experimenting with different types of partnerships and joint ventures, to find the optimum way to build out its IoT ecosystem…in the form of oddly-named creatures, like Caradigm, Taleris, and Quirky.

These are examples of how GE is leveraging its relationship with suppliers and other capabilities to support start-up products as they launch. This approach would be rather the opposite of what you might see in the big media space, such as with a company like Comcast that is so reluctant to cede control of anything to any other partner.

Caradigm, for example, is a 50-50 joint venture between GE Healthcare and Microsoft, focused on identity and access management, as well as continuous process improvement in the healthcare world.

Taleris is a joint venture between GE Aviation and Accenture that develops analytic capabilities to manage airline operations. They help airlines predict, prevent and recover from operational disruptions improving operational efficiency and enhancing the customer experience.

And Quirky is a GE investment in a consumer product innovation platform, serving almost ¾ of a million members, who propose, refine, select, fund and help members build new products. This investment has delivered products such as Smart Phone manageable apps that can manage special power-strips and air conditioners, as well as a smart egg tray that monitors the freshness of your eggs and pings you when they go bad. All of these things, developed with the Quirky effort, were on the shelves at Best Buy before the 2013 holiday season.

On another level, GE also partnered with potential competitors, including Intel and Cisco, for network and data center services, as well as with Amazon Web services for cloud delivery.

So, with these GE examples, are there lessons for your company?Notes GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, “We partner with competitors. We know there’s going to be tons of things we learn and share or giveaway. You’re going to lose some of the control you have today. I think that’s part of the debate. ”

Like GE, do you need to keep building capabilities and finding other strategies to capture value without alienating current participants in your ecosystem?

IoT sensors deployed inside GE jet engines, for example, has enabled them to proactively manage the status, maintenance, and long-term life of GE jet engines, in ways they never could before. In fact, GE has so finely-tuned the data collection, transport, and analysis of jet engine data, that it is now considered to have a major product advantage (beyond the technicalities of the engine itself). This advantage is translating into premium pricing, more customers, and more revenues… for both the original product and even the ongoing support product.

Just as you have to decide, the choices GE makes about the openness of its toolbox and platform will be crucial. GE’s business model is increasingly tied to those of its customers, as is yours, where you are serving more and more operators globally.

Another Big Example

We already made mention of Cisco’s John Chambers’ belief that the IoT/IoE is going to drive billions in new revenue for Cisco alone. Remember that Chambers’ IoE moniker is meant to stress the importance of the network, as opposed to just the things. This makes sense from the perspective of a company that thrives whenever there is more data to move somewhere; routers, switches, and hubs… that’s Cisco.

However, deep within the bowels of Cisco,  there is the cable TV STB and TV Everywhere suppliers; Scientific Atlanta, Linksys, Control 4, Extend Media and so many more all trying to get out and make a dent in the consumer-oriented Smart Home side of the IoT.
And yes, we are aware of the critique that Cisco is this huge, lumbering, too slow to react company, but even at its worst, with all the money and all that investment, it is bound to get a few things right, and thus even in the consumer Smart Home space, it is worthy of observation.


So, whether you are a big company along the lines of GE or Cisco, or a smaller company such as Digeo-Moxi was back in the day, the IoT world is creating tremendous opportunity all around. Consider your industry and business from the framework of “The Silent Intelligence” and determine where your opportunities reside across data acquisition, data transport and/or data analytics.

And then … dive on in, the IoT waters are fine. G2Speaks is ready, willing and able to help.


4 Strategic IoT Choices to Consider

An article from Harvard Business Review (written back in 2005) is still perfectly relevant for thinking about strategy approaches for today’s Internet of Things (IoT) business models. Entitled the “Four Strategies for the Age of Smart Services” authors Glen Allmendinger and Ralph Lobreglia wrote of lessons perfectly applicable to sorting through IoT business model strategy development.

G2Speaks has reviewed the four suggested strategies and matched them each with current-day role models to illustrate this current relevance and spark further discussions.

Embedded Innovator Strategy

This is the most product-centric of the business models. Customers will perceive the physical product as the primary source of value and they will continue to expect the product to be supported as it always has in the past. However, because the embedded innovator has built intelligence and communications into its products, the product becomes a “silent intelligence” tool for enabling expansion of the business beyond just the product. Today, the Smartphone is a near perfect example of an embedded innovator product just as the TiVo DVR or VHS/Betamax VCR’s were back in the day.

Apple as an Embedded Innovator Example

Apple is largely an embedded innovator. Leveraging “just” the iPhone, which consumers act upon as a physical product, they have built themselves an ecosystem where the sum of the parts, apps, music, movies, etc. are more valuable to them than the phone itself.

Now, with Apple Health, they are attempting to expand their ecosystem again though this time by leaning into more of an aggregation mode. Apple Health was introduced with iOS 8 to enable multiple third-party apps to be queried, their data gathered in one central point, appropriate analytics applied, and a dashboard presentation to be custom made to the consumer’s wish. Apple Health is the digital equivalent of the doctor’s patient folder; an aggregation of all the health tidbits collected by various people, places and procedures.
Google of course has introduced its own app called Google Fit to deliver similar capabilities to Apple Health. However, because Google is not approaching it from the embedded innovator’s product perspective, they will face the tougher challenge in gaining market acceptance. Remember that previously, Google introduced Google Health just as Microsoft also introduced Health Vault and both struggled to gain traction without an embedded innovator’s product to shepherd them forward.

Solutionist Strategy

In this model, a single key product typically is still the dominant gateway to more business. However, the model gets stretched to include all the related aspects of the product.  Instead of just selling the product, there is installation, training, financing, replenishment of expendables, customization for personal style, ongoing hardware enhancement, ongoing software upgrades and on and on and on.

GE as an Industrial Solutionist Example

General Electric Aviation (GE) and their jet engine business is a perfect example of a Solutionist mode as they have shifted from an embedded innovator model (selling “just” engines) to a Solutionist model where all the surrounding aspects of the jet engine are also product-ized. With a dizzying array of sensors deployed on every jet engine, GE can provide data on the each engine that far exceeds the competition.  All that data can then be turned into actionable tactics that minimize cost and maximize runtime to the benefit of the airplane owner.

iControl Networks as a Consumer Solutionist Example

Have you been following what iControl Networks has been doing? They recently partnered with IndieGoGo to enable any start-up to utilize the iControl platform to more quickly bring the start-up’s idea to market via a support incubator they have established and full access to the iControl’s foundational Smart Home platform.
This is a solutionist approach as iControl recognizes that pushing their technology as an industry standard is an uphill battle and one that will not likely result in a royalty stream for them.  Instead, they are hoping that if they “enable” others by offering their platform to start-ups, they will achieve market reach via leverage.  This is a smart move for iControl Networks though only time will tell as to their success.
What similarly positioned platform play for start-ups to leverage can you bring to bear?

Aggregator Strategy

When a single product solution doesn’t cut it, what do you do? You aggregate! Sometimes the data you can draw from your primary product is only of marginal additional value.  However, once that data is coupled with data drawn from other products (aggregation) you may get a big win in functionality that can be priced, marketed and sold as a much bigger deal.

In the Smart Home space, it’s sort of, kind of cool that a light bulb can be turned on or off automatically by programmed schedule.  However, it’s really cool when the lights in the house respond to movement, auto-magically turning on at the right intensity based on the registered activity and other variables.

Remember the first time you walked into a hotel and the lights automatically turned on as you strolled down the hallway to your room? In the modern Smart Home, the full lighting solution gets even better when it interacts with internal and external data.  Your movement within the house, adjusted for time of day, temperature, humidity, and all sorts of other data points, is key to creating an optimized lighting experience.

Lowe’s as an Aggregator Example

Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores, a do-it-yourself store, gets the IoT for the Smart Home.
Lowe’s requires any Smart Home connected device they sell to work with their IRIS hub. The idea is to ensure consumers of system compatibility via Lowe’s Iris for door sensors, cams, leak and motion detectors, garage door openers, door locks and on and on. The Iris platform offers basic home security and automation products that work together with a Smartphone or tablet app that integrates all the various modules. Iris supports Z wave, ZigBee, Wi-Fi devices and most anything else that can talk Iris.

Of course, it’s also always about building an ecosystem for Lowe’s. This business model approach is really a nice dual play for Lowes. Without having to develop and manufacture, they sell all the various sensors and devices which Lowe’s certifies to work with Iris and then they sell Iris as an application.

Iris does not alert police or fire and it’s not actually monitored by live personnel, it’s all automated. However, Lowe’s offers a $10 a month option that enables Iris sensors to interact with one another instead of just alarming thus providing truly automated scenarios that link multiple devices together. Voice command was recently added as an additional up-charge to the Iris app and it has received resounding consumer support.


Today, it is possible to succeed in Smart Devices simply by providing intelligent devices that play well with others. When you create a product that can contribute valuable data or enhanced functionality to other connected products, you are pursuing a synergist’s model.

Telefonica as a Synergist Example

The 300 million customer strong Telefonica, the number one Spanish multinational by market capitalization and one of the largest private telecommunications companies in the world, has introduced an end-to-end platform enabling product and services to be built and monetized via the Internet of things.

Called “Thinking Things” it consists of intelligent, stackable, hardware modules with different capabilities via sensors, actuators, power and connectivity options and all of which can be “stacked” together to get the product functions desired.

The idea is to cut right to the heart of the issue and quickly get devices into the field collecting data on any variety of things. This Synergist model has a high likelihood of success for Telefonica as they also have (from their core business) global connectivity to bring to the party. All of these modules communicate over a 2G network which Telefonica will gladly sell you for about €100 per year.

With data acquisition assured via the modules, and data transport via their network, the data analysis will be left to their starter software and system API’s upon which others can build full-fledged solutions. Telefonica wants this to be an open ecosystem in which any object can be connected to the Internet (preferably via their network). If they are right this could be the mother lode equivalent for all cable and Telco operators everywhere to pursue.


The Smart Home market and the larger IoT market support multiple, simultaneous business model strategies.  The key is to evaluate your specific abilities and then think through how best to drive change in your industry; not just by thinking about faster and better ways to do what you already do, consider as well how to use your abilities to disrupt entire ecosystems with the bold new thinking that the IoT enables.

G2Speaks is ready to help.