Get your vote in for best IoT products of 2013!

Posted on 28th January 2014 in energy, environmental, health, home automation

(sorry: WordPress and I didn’t agree on the formatting for this entry, and WordPress wins!)

Postscapes‘ annual Best of the IoT contest wraps up on the 30th, so don’t miss your chance to vote for last year’s best IoT products!  You owe it to yourself to check out all the nominees: it will give a good overview of how the state-of-the-IoT has evolved, especially when you go back and compare the winners from the past two years.

Here are my personal choices in the various categories, and my reasons for choosing them — the primary criterion being my friend Eric Bonabeau‘s perennial question of new technology, “what can you do now that you couldn’t do before?”

  • Connected Home: I vote for the Mother smart home hub (probably because she looks like something from a Wallace & Gromit short..), cute, efficient, and open source (the leading vote-getter in this category is the iAquaLink pool control system: pardon my doubts, but there ain’t no way any automation system could control my pool: it’s basically a law unto itself!)
  • Connected Body:  Libelium Open Source e-Health Sensor Platform     Libelium does such great work in general, and this one is, to my knowledge, the most all-encompassing Quantified Self monitoring system, monitoring, with 10 different sensors: pulse, oxygen in blood (SPO2), airflow (breathing), body temperature, electrocardiogram (ECG), glucometer, galvanic skin response (GSR-sweating), blood pressure (sphygmomanometer) and patient position (accelerometer). I think it was Dave Evans who said that 30% of all docs will retire in the next decade, while the number of senior/Boomers will increase exponentially. The only way we’ll be able to cope is by making it easy for doctors to know what’s happening with us — in real time!
  • Smart City: On the day we mark environmental activist Pete Seeger’s death, what better than the open-source, crowd-funded Smart Citizen Kit, which empowers citizen activists to monitor environmental conditions! Power to the people, right on!
  • Enterprise: The HyGreen Hand Hygiene Monitoring System.  As I remarked before about a competing system, this is personal, because my cousin acquired a terrible Hospital Acquired Infection. Hand-washing is an absolutely critical hospital procedure, but until now we lacked a fool-proof method to make sure it was done!
  • Technical Enabler: Thingworx expanded their offerings this year with the Thingworx Marketplace, providing developers ..”with the necessary building blocks to rapidly build innovative applications that integrate those connected devices with business systems, social and cloud services, and external systems, enabling them to drive value in the connected world.”
  • Social Impact: OK, I’ll admit a soft spot for any reformer, so I count all these as “winners.” But the one that really caught my I was the Natalia Project, a wristband that alerts people if human rights workers are endangered.  Here’s the story:”In 2009, human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped and later found murdered in Chechnya. In part of honoring her and the incident the Swedish organization Civil Rights Defenders is launching the Natalia Project. At the heart of the idea lies a GPS and GSM equipped wristband that when triggered or is forcibly removed will send out an alert and location information to warn that its wearer could be in danger.”
  • Networked Art: as the page says “Artists are often the first to see the potential in new technologies, even before those technologies are mature enough to be used to the consumer” (hmm, don’t think that’s what he meant to say, but you get the drift..) — and don’t forget the Arduino board came from a design school! My choice — hey, why not? — is Alex Kiesling’s “Long-Distance Art” — but the other ones look kewl too!
  • Design Fiction:  I’m going to pass on this one! I must be a little too literally minded!
  • DIY Project: oooh: this harkens back to my “Data Dynamite” book, on liberating data!  Here’s the description of my winner, the Data Sensing Lab:

    “Hardware hacking for data scientists”. By deploying custom wireless hardware at tech conferences like Strata and Google I/O the team is looking to advance what real-time sensor network data collection, analysis, and visualizations will look like in the near future.“We will soon begin to move in a sea of data, our movements monitored and our environments measured and adjusted to our preferences, without need for direct intervention. What will this look like? How can we create and shape it? How can we introduce the relevant hardware to people who already possess data analytics skills?”

  • Open Source: in many ways, the most important category of all, since without open standards the IoT just ain’t gonna go anywhere.  I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of it, but my choice in this category is Alljoyn. As the description says, “AllJoyn is an open source project that provides a software framework and set of Services that enable interoperability among connected products and software applications, across manufacturers, to create dynamic proximal networks.  By integrating the AllJoyn framework codebase, manufactures can offer interoperable products and services that will engage and delight users in new, exciting and useful ways.” Yep.
  • Startup of the Year: I see Evrythng as a critical IoT marketing tool.
  • Must-Follow Company: I’d go with Libelium: they’re so ubiquitous and partner so well with so many.

So those are my choices — some are rather arbitrary because there are no so many promising IoT companies. Who are you voting for, and why??

Google makes IoT mainstream

Posted on 21st January 2014 in design, home automation, Internet of Things, M2M, management, strategy

We won’t know for a while the direct impact that Google’s stunning, multi-billion dollar acquisition of Nest will have, but one thing is for sure: it’s given the IoT an unprecedented level of recognition, and my bet is that history will judge that as a critical step in the IoT’s commercialization. After all, Nest only has two products, and their price premium compared to competing thermostats and smoke detectors meant they were definitely niche players.  Now, the “Google Effect” will mean that they’ll get a disproportionate amount of media attention, just as the driverless car has.

That’s no small thing, especially for the IoT in general, which got more attention in 2013, but, IMHO, still remains unheard of among the general public.  I suspect that the phrase “Internet of Things” got more exposure last week because of the Nest deal than it ever had in the past.

Nest 2.0 thermostat

Nest 2.0 thermostat

Of course, there are some big imponderables in the deal. Google’s past in consumer acquisitions (i.e., Motorola) isn’t exactly stunningly successful, and it’s hard to tell now how much they’ll want to grow the Nest line, or whether they’ll decide to make radical cuts in the devices’ prices to gain market share. I do suspect that one part of Nest’s strategy, adoption of the Apple closed-standards approach, will go bye-bye: not only is it incompatible with the whole Android philosophy, but it also makes no sense from an IoT standpoint, since the only way the IoT will ever succeed will be by standardizing on a small number of open systems (I’m a FIERCE Mac zealot, but still think that history will judge their devotion to a closed system to be a quirk: I always look to nature for inspiration, and nature doesn’t do things that way!).

The other big question about the deal is whether there will be a Chinese wall between data from Nest devices and Google’s omniverous data maw.  Nest CEO Tony Fadell says that the data will remain with Nest, but that seems highly-unlikely over time. We shall see…

At any rate, it seems to me that this is, on whole, a critical watershed in the IoT’s commercialization, and we’re likely to see new interest among the general business community and the public as a result!

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Fie on the Polar Vortex! Are there #IoT sensors to avoid burst pipes?

Posted on 9th January 2014 in environmental, Internet of Things, maintenance

The weather so far in 2014 in the US has been insane, with the “Polar Vortex” putting much of the nation in the deep freeze. One costly result? A plague of burst pipes, including my wife’s hospital, and my son’s university.

I did a quick search and couldn’t find an IoT sensor to detect bulging pipes in time to shut them off, but I’m sure someone has developed one as part of a “smart building” strategy. Let me know if you make one, and I’ll spread the word. 

Aside to Sen. Imhofe: I know you’re chortling about this, but NPR reported recently that as a result of global warming winters in general will be moderating but there will be more extreme weather events such as this one. Checked the pipes in your basement, sir?

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CK Kerley brings pizzazz to IoT marketing!

Posted on 7th January 2014 in Internet of Things, M2M, marketing

I’ve been away, really celebrating the holidays with my family and working on revisions to my e-book on managing the IoT for mainstream companies.  What better way to return than with a new publication that really gives some oomph to marketing the IoT?

The Smart Revolution

I met CK Kerley when she made some nice comments about my SmartStuff e-book intro to the IoT, and have been impressed by the energy and pizzazz that she brings to the marketing aspect of the IoT — elegant tech can only take you so far, and then you need to sell the stuff!

Now CK has a free e-book on marketing the IoT, The Smart Revolution, and it’s a great jumping off point for planning your own IoT marketing strategy. You can quickly finish it one one sitting — then come back to it again and again for future inspiration.

What comes through time and time again throughout the brief tome is something I hope also comes through in this blog and in my forthcoming e-book: the IoT won’t just make current things (literally and figuratively) better: if we fully exploit its potential, it will result in fundamental transformation!

Kerley emphasizes that marketers don’t have any choice about whether to embrace smart devices: consumers will force them to do so:

“The benefits of smart capabilities will have profound implications upon tomorrow’s customers who will be much more demanding, much more impatient, and much more savvy, with much higher standards.

“Mark my words, marketers: Dumb things won’t merely be an inconvenience to your customers; they will be all but intolerable to them—and wholly irrelevant in the 21st century marketplace. While smart brands give marketers a competitive advantage today, that advantage will rapidly transform into tomorrow’s cost of entry.”

Kerley also emphasizes that this transformation will be more than bells-and-whistles for consumers: it will have a profound, positive impact on their quality of life:

“Now marketers can move from developing individual dumb products for customers to engineering fuller, smart solutions that truly change customers’ lives. You are enabled to remove the mystery that has shrouded entire areas of your audiences’ lives and infuse it with transparency—empowering them to make better decisions that lead to better outcomes.

“Marketers can eliminate the overwhelming complexity that has plagued their customers’ lives and, through their smart brands, replace it with sheer simplicity. And you can expand the roles your brands play in customers’ activities—a move that your markets will welcome because it will transform static components into dynamic experiences for them.

“Finally, in a sea change for companies, we can migrate from mass- producing products shipped from our factories to micro-personalizing offerings that are only truly complete when they are in the hands of our customers.”

She’s taken the tack of organizing IoT marketing in terms of 5 basic principles, with several brand examples for each to show that the IoT is a current reality, not a laboratory dream. Think of those examples as ammunition to convince skeptical executives that the IoT is a reality and the time to develop a strategy is now!

Here they are:

  1. Value: “smart brands expand value by transforming single, dumb products into fuller, smart solutions.”  Examples:
    1. Asthmapolis Smart Inhaler: “transforming a product that manages asthma attacks into a solution that works to prevent asthmatic episodes” (because it’s location aware) (see my post about the TellSpec food analyzer)
    2. Nike+ Smart Basketball Shoes: “Transforming a sporting accessory into a fitness partner that tracks players’ progress in real time”
  2. Empowerment: “smart brands empower customers through new insights that drive better outcomes,” such as self-monitoring Quantified Self devices’ that empower patients to be full partners in their health care. Examples:
    1. MC10’s Smart BioStamp: “24/7 Monitoring of vital statistics takes the mystery out of health and arms patients and physicians with the data to provide better care.”
    2. Jawbone UP: My fav Xmas present? Other than the totally-outside-the-box, totally-unexpected MacBook Pro, I love my new Jawbone UP, and the ability it gives me to track my fitness activities!
  3. Simplicity: “smart brands remove complexity — and replace it with simplicity.”
    1. GlowCaps Smart Pill Bottles: “Removing the complexity of remembering to take medication by turning the simple pill bottle into a smart reminder.” Still one of my fav IoT pioneers!
    2. IntelligentM SmartBand“replacing the complexity of hand-hygiene compliance by turning healthcare workers’ wristbands into personal, real-time reminders.” This is my fav of Kerley’s examples: one of of my cousins got very, very sick at America’s finest hospital (it may or may not be in Baltimore…) from a Hospital-Acquired Infection — which usually occur because personnel forget to wash their hands! “Through RFID technology, the SmartBand works by communicating with other objects (such as IV bags) that reminds workers to sanitize their hands by buzzing three times. Then, once workers have thoroughly washed all areas of their hands for the correct amount of time, the wristband buzzes once, signaling workers that they can proceed with their treatments.”  How cool is that???
    3. Tagg Smart Pet Tracker: “Eliminating the complexity of keeping dogs in the yard by simply turning their collar into a smart pet tracker.”
  4. Experience: “Smart brands turn static elements into dynamic experiences.” Examples:

    1. Vail Resorts Smart Ski Pass: “turning the dumb ski pass into a dynamic device unleashes an entirely new skiing experience.” I got a little preview of this transformation skiing in the Berkshires last year: the lift ticket was a glorified RFID tag. However, this goes far beyond!”When visitors get to each lift, their tickets—enabled with RFID technology—are scanned and automatically record each skier’s lift rides, calculate their vertical skiing feet and tally their ski days.”To review progress, users simply need to access the online site or mobile app replete with stats, maps and achievements that tell the story of the customers’ “epic” days or “epic” seasons—with Vail featuring a separate kids’ site for children under 13. The site, app and smart ski ticket do more than just record data, they award skiers with special pins commemorating hundreds of milestones, special adventures and unique accomplishments for each day—and each season—at each of Vail’s collection of ski resorts.” Neat!
    2. GolfSense Smart Golf Sensor: “a smart globe becomes a new virtual participant — and a golfer’s secret weapon — in the game experience.” OK, this one hurts: for a short while this Fall, before I did a competitive products search, I thought I had the KILLER IoT golfing app. Alas, while it did have some unique elements, this and some other apps do a good enough job that there was no reason to develop mine. Fame and fortune remain around the bend (or on the next tee).
  5. Personalization: “smart brands are micro-personalized by customers, not mass-produced by companies.” Examples:
    1. The Nest themostat: everyone’s IoT poster child. Its sensors even observe if the house is vacant (although I’ve always worried that you might just be absorbed in a book for hours on end, not moving, so the Nest would decide to put you on chill. What’s your actual experience with it??)
    2. Target’s Smart Shopping Experience: (in the design phase) “An idea that turns a big-box store full of products into a personalized store tailored to your specific needs.” I will ignore the opportunity of a bad joke at Target’s expense…

So check it out, and, if you’re a corporate marketer, add your voice to our chorus to get your C-level execs fired up about the IoT’s revolutionary potential. Thanks, CK!