Apple iWatch: could they really make wearables acceptable to mass market?

The WSJ had a piece this week speculating on the rumored Apple iWatch (Disclaimer: I work part-time in an Apple Store. In that capacity I don’t know anything you don’t know — including whether the iWatch will actually ever happen! My sources for this blog are limited to publicly-available ones.).

The Journal notes that none of the smart watches released so far have had major penetration, and, as a further cautionary note, I’d point out that most people who start using a Jawb0ne UP, Nike FuelBand, etc. stop using them in several months (HELP: I recently read the data on that claim, but I can’t find the citation. Can you help me find it???).

HOWEVER, as I speculated recently in my posts on Apple’s soon-to-be-released HealthKit and HomeKit, the company has shown time-and-time-again over the past 15 years that it knows how to create disruptive devices (even though Clayton Christensen was skeptical, LOL!) and create huge new markets that make tech devices mainstream.

Given my new-found pre-occupation with “Smart Aging” through a combination of Quantified Self and smart home devices, I really like the idea of a smart watch for seniors. I haven’t worn a watch since I got my first Palm Pilot (wow: remember when they were cutting edge??), but seniors do, and I suspect that if they could get immediate feedback on their vital signs from something that was not only functional but fashionable and didn’t require any technical savvy, they wouldn’t feel stigmatized by wearing the watch, a critical factor in its widespread acceptance.

Let’s see what happens!

 

My speech on how the Internet of Things will aid Predictive Analytics

I spoke yesterday at the Predictive Analytics Manufacturing conference in Chicago, about a theme I first raised in the O’Reilly SOLID blog, about how the Internet of Things could bring about an “era of precision manufacturing.”

I argued that, as powerful as Predictive Analytics tools have been in analyzing manufacturing data and improving forecasting, their effectiveness has been artificially restricted because, for example, we can’t “see” inside production machinery to detect early signs of metal fatigue in time to avoid a costly breakdown, nor can we tell whether EVERY product on an assembly line will function when customers use them.

By contrast, I argued that the IoT will give us all this information, and, most important, allow everyone (from your supply chain and distribution network to EVERYONE in your company) to share this data on a real-time basis.  I warned that it will be management issues (those pesky IoT Essential Truths again!), such as whether to allow this sharing to take place, and whether to end departmental silos, that will be the biggest potential barrier to full IoT implementation.

Believe me, it will be an incredible transformation.  You can read the full text here.

Apple’s HomeKit: will it hasten widespread smart home adoption?

Been too busy to comment until now on Apple’s HomeKit platform, announced last week at its WWDC event.

(PROMINENT DISCLAIMER! Having to send huge amounts of money to Loyola of Maryland for the next three years [I feel like I’m in the Weimar Republic and must carry tons of money to Baltimore in a wheelbarrow, LOL] to secure my youngest’s sheepskin has led to a part-time sales job at the Apple Store — which doesn’t give me any inside insights into their strategy. Rest assured that nothing that will ever appear in this blog about Apple will be gathered from anything other than public sources. I know only what you know, and the opinions expressed here are solely my own).

As the announcement aimed at developers said,

“HomeKit is a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home. Apps can enable users to discover devices in their home and configure them, or you can create actions to control those devices. Users can group actions together and trigger them using Siri.”

As I wrote when Google bought Nest last winter, the most immediate impact will probably be to boost public visibility and understanding of the IoT and smart homes.

Beyond that, the ability to leverage Siri’s growing versatility will probably be a major factor in promoting IoT ease-of-use (given my pre-occupation with use of smart-home technology to encourage “aging in place” among seniors, it will be very important in getting the tech-averse and those who have trouble typing on a smart phone to use HomeKit-compliant devices. And then there’s the companion Health Kit, also announced at WWDC, which I’ll review in my next post.).

As you might expect given Apple’s overall zeal for close hardware and software integration, the developer’s kit emphasizes protocols and standards compliance — which should in turn enhance overall security and privacy protections, benefiting all players:

“Home Kit provides seamless integration between accessories that support Apple’s Home Automation Protocol and iOS devices, allowing for new advances in home automation. By promoting a common protocol for home automation devices and making a public API available for configuring and communicating with those devices, Home Kit makes possible a marketplace where the app a user controls their home with doesn’t have to be created by the vendor who made their home automation accessories, and where home automation accessories from multiple vendors can all be integrated into a single coherent whole without those vendors having to coordinate directly with each other.

Home Kit allows third-party apps to perform three major functions:

  1. Discover accessories and add them to a persistent, cross-device home configuration database.
  2. Display, edit, and act upon the data in the home configuration database.
  3. Communicate with configured accessories and services to get them to perform actions, such as turning on the lights in the living room.

The home configuration database is not only available to third-party apps, it’s also available to Siri. This allows users to give commands like, ‘Siri, turn on the lights in the living room.’ If a user creates a home configuration with logical groupings of accessories, services, and commands, Siri can make it very easy to accomplish sophisticated operations with voice control.”

Most important, individual IoT apps and devices can come together into “scenes,” in which a variety of actions (such as starting appliances, turning up the heat, etc., when you wake). IMHO, this emphasis on inter-operability is critically important to public acceptance of the IoT.  As I’ve written before about my IoT “Essential Truths,” two critical things we need to do is to ask “who else could use this data?,” and to democratize innovation. As I understand the above description, it will be like the iPhone ecosystem, where Apple will review all apps and decide whether they can be sold on whatever “store” the company creates for the IoT, but developers will be encouraged to run wild with their imaginations to create both new hardware and to come up with innovative mashups of data from all the various devices that will help integrate them into a comprehensive ecosystem in which, for example, an action by one device may trigger a follow-on action by another device.

The framework, logically, uses a home metaphor to organize all the components into a hierarchy:

  • Homes (HMHome) are the top level container, and represent a structure that a user would generally consider to be a single home. Users might have multiple homes that are far apart, such as a primary home and a vacation home. Or they might have two homes that are close together, but that they consider different homes—for example, a main home and a guest cottage on the same property.
  • Rooms (HMRoom) are optional parts of homes, and represent individual rooms in the home. Rooms don’t have any physical characteristics—size, location, etc. They’re simply names that are meaningful to the user, such as ‘living room’ or ‘kitchen’. Meaningful room names enable commands like, ‘Siri, turn on the kitchen lights.’
  • Accessories (HMAccessory) are installed into homes and assigned to rooms. These are the actual physical home automation devices, such as a garage door opener. If the user doesn’t configure any rooms, Home Kit assigns accessories to a special default room for the home.
  • Services (HMService) are the actual services provided by an accessory. Accessories have both user-controllable services, like a light, and services that are for their own use, like a firmware update service. Home Kit is most concerned with user-controllable services.A single accessory may have more than one user-controllable service. For example, most garage door openers have a service for opening and closing the door, and another service for the light on the garage door opener.
  • Zones (HMZone) are optional groupings of rooms in a home. ‘Upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ would be represented by zones. Zones are completely optional—rooms don’t need to be in a zone. By adding rooms to a zone, the user is able to give commands to Siri such as, ‘Siri, turn on all of the lights downstairs.'”

As Fast Company observed, the HomeKit’s greatest contribution to the smart home may be streamlining interaction between various apps and devices through Siri:

“By opening up Siri to control third-party peripherals, the smart home experience will become infinitely more seamless. Up until now, controlling a smart device has meant unlocking a mobile device, launching an app, and then making adjustments–a bit too much friction for lowering the volume of the TV or dimming the lights.”

Apple has already lined up a great assortment of partners: iDevices, iHome, Cree, Honeywell, Haier, Philips, Kwikset, Netatmo, and Withings. Hmm: no Nest?

Still to come, of course, is to find out what Apple itself will develop in terms of smart home hardware, such as the long-rumored iWatch (again, I know nothing about this beyond what we’ve all read in blogs, etc.).

No matter what shape the company’s IoT strategy takes, the fact that the world’s second-most profitable company, and leading retailer,  has made such a public commitment to the IoT and smart homes should dramatically speed public adoption, and, perhaps equally important, create public awareness. After all, remember how quickly and dramatically the iPhone transformed the cell phone paradigm — and our lives.

NEXT: Apple’s Health Kit.

 

comments: 2 »

Seeing’s believing: the mother of all #IoT infographics is here!

Posted on 5th March 2014 in agriculture, design, Internet of Things, M2M, manufacturing, marketing

Like wow!  Trevor Harwood at the go-to IoT site Postscapes has teamed up with Harbor Research to create a “little” infographic (by my calculations it is about 2 miles horizontally by 3 miles vertically!!) that tells all you need to know about the IoT (download here: I wouldn’t attempt to do a screen grab: couldn’t do justice to it!).

I’ve been looking at it for several hours, and still haven’t processed all the information, but I think you’ll find it invaluable to introduce newbies to the IoT and all of its aspects (I was particularly impressed by several of the case studies that I hadn’t read about before).

Download it now, then study it carefully. Nice job!

comments: 0 » tags: ,

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!

comments: 3 »

TellSpec: IoT device that can be a life-saver — and the killer app!

Posted on 10th December 2013 in design, environmental, health, Internet of Things, M2M

Whenever someone tries to dismiss the Internet of Things as a nice future vision, I love to rebut them with an example — such as the bassinettes in the Toronto Hospital for  Sick Children that allow doctors to diagnose a life-threatening infection a day before there are visible symptoms — that shows the IoT’s not only a reality, but is also saving lives!   That usually stops them in their tracks.   .

Now there’s a great new example on the horizon: the TellSpec food inspector.

In fact, because of the service’s three components, I’d say it’s a near-perfect example if you want to introduce the IoT to someone! Once in widespread use, it might well be the “killer app” that finally makes the IoT a household phrase — extremely useful (and easy to use), affordable, and allowing you to do something that couldn’t be done before.

For a variety of reasons, the rate of food allergies is increasing alarmingly, and adults with gluten allergies or parents whose kids are allergic to peanuts can’t always depend on package labels or appearances to warn them of when a given food may trigger a deadly attack of anaphylaxis. Then there’s the rest of us, who are increasingly dubious about whether our foods include pesticides, transfats or other unwanted substances. Or, we may just want to track our calorie consumption. TaDa! The TellSpec!

The crowd-sourced (yea! The people know best) system is a a classic IoT service, because it combines:

  • a device: the TellSpec scanner, which is small enough to go on a key chain — and would have been impossible without the revolution in sensors and nanotechnology (specifically, nanophotonics): its guts are a low-power laser and a spectrometer on a chip that measures the reflected light, analyzing any food’s chemical composition in less than 20 seconds. This kind of analysis used to require a bulky, stationary spectrometer.
  • analysis in the cloud: the data is transmitted to the cloud, where an algorithm analyzes the spectrum information. As you can imagine, doing this kind of analysis on a large scale and in real time was impossible until the cloud.
  • the app: within seconds, you get an easy-to-understand message that details the food’s components, such as transfats, caloric content, allergens, etc.

How cool is that?

The system is in prototype right now. They’re taking pre-orders now, for delivery in August. The scanner plus a year of the analysis support will be $320, and after that, it will cost $7.99 per month or $69.99 yearly. My normally acceptable range of cost for an app is $.00 or less, LOL, but even a cheapskate like me realizes that this is well worth the price.

What a marvelous invention, and what a proof of concept!

As always, I’m indebted to Postscapes for the tip on this one.

Calculating Internet of Things ROI — important tool

Just came across this video while researching how to calculate ROI on Internet of Things investments for the e-book I’m writing, and felt compelled to share it.

That’s because it may be hard to calculate ROI fully and accurately for IoT investments if you aren’t thinking in terms of what my friend/patron Eric Bonabeau always pounds into my head: what can you do now that you couldn’t do before?

In the case of the IoT, there are  several things, such as “predictive maintenance,” that weren’t possible before and thus we don’t automatically think of calculating these benefits. It will require a conscious change in figuring ROI to account for them.

According to Axeda CMO Bill Zujewski, there are 6 levels of M2M/IoT implementation, and there are both cost savings and revenue enhancements as you move up the curve:

  1. Unconnected: this is where most firms are today. No M2M/IoT investments.
  2. Connected, pulling data for future use: No return yet.
  3. Service: the investment begins to pay off, primarily because of lower service costs.
    1. Cost reductions:
      1. fewer repair visits  Now that you’re harvesting real-time information about products’ condition, you may be able to optimize operating conditions remotely.
      2. first-time fix rate increases: Now you may know what the problem is before you leave, and can also take the proper replacement parts.
      3. reduced call length: You may know the problem in advance, rather than having to tinker once you’re there to discover it.
    2. Higher Revenues:
      1. Greater customer satisfaction. Customer doesn’t have to pay as much for repairs, down-time is reduced.
  4. Analyze: Putting data into BI and other analysis tools to get greater insights. For example, understand what are bad parts, when they’re failing.
    1. Cost reductions:
      1. fewer service visits: instead of monthly service you may be able to switch to quarterly.
      2. lowering returns
      3. improve product design
    2. Higher Revenues:
      1. Increase product up-time: due to better design and more effective maintenance, longer mean-time-to-failure.
  5. Data integration: begin to integrate data with business processes.
    1. Cost reductions:
      1. warrantees (especially for industrial equipment): fewer claims if you can monitor equipment’s operations, warn owner if they’re using it improperly.
      2. recalls: reduced.
    2. Higher revenues:
      1. pay-as-you-go leases: as we’ve discussed earlier, you may be able to increase revenues by leasing products based on how much the customer actually uses them (which you can now document), rather than selling them.
      2. increased sales of consumables: you’ll be able to know exactly when the customer needs them.
  6. Reinvent the customer experience: According to Zujewski, this is where you “put machine data into the end users’ hands” through a smartphone app, for example, that gives them access to the information.
    1. Cost reductions:
      1. reduced calls to call center: the end user will be able to initiate service and troubleshoot themselves.
    2. Higher revenues:
      1. increases sales: your product will be enhanced, leading to more successful sales calls. You also may be able to charge for some of the new data access services that make the product better.

Zujewski concludes by saying that all of these changes combine into 4 major benefits:

  1. world-class service
  2. business insights (such as better understanding of how your customers are using your products) from all the data and analysis
  3. improve business processes: integrating data allows you to improve the way you perform current processes
  4. highly-differentiated offering due to to the apps and information you can provide users. “You end up demo-ing your apps vs. just the machines”

I was really impressed with this presentation, and it makes sense to me as a framework for calculating ROI on Internet of Things investments (I want to think about other benefits of the IoT that were impossible before to see if there are any other factors that should also be calculated).

I’d be really interested in your reaction: is this a valid methodology? what other factors would you also include?

Best quick intro to the IoT that I’ve seen!

Following up on my last post, I’ve found what I think is the best quick intro to the Internet of Things!

Internet of Things,” released today by the Center for Data Innovation (hadn’t heard of them! BTW, they also get points in my book for covering XBRL, the magic potion for data…) is a quick read: it has short intros to most of the major consumer-oriented areas affected by the IoT, from healthcare to home automation, combined with two examples for each of those topics. I hadn’t heard of some of the examples (thanks, authors Daniel Castro and Jordan Misra!), although most are frequently cited ones ranging from the Nest thermostat to the Vitality GlowCap.  All in all, they’ll show almost any skeptic that the IoT is already a reality and that it will change their life!

The report concludes with brief policy recommendations for government and business alike:

  • (for government agencies) lead by example, i.e., include funding for sensors in bridge projects, etc. Yea (you listening, Obama Administration?).
  • reduce barriers to data sharing (this harkens back to my Data Dynamite book: data gains value by being shared!).
  • give consumers access to their data (again, something I wrote about in Data Dynamite).
  • avoid inundating consumers with notices (a fine line, since they need to be informed, in plain English, about how their data will be used).
  • regulate the use of data, not the collection (in line with Mercatus Center’s advice)

All in all, a nice intro to the IoT!

BTW: Thanx to ol’ friend Pete O’Dell for turning me on to this report!

IoT Essential Truths: Coordination

Posted on 1st November 2013 in design, Essential Truths, Internet of Things, M2M, maintenance, management

Just as I’ve written repeatedly about one of the “Essential Truths” of the Internet of Things is that we have to learn how to collaborate, there’s another “co- word” that’s crucial to realize its full potential: coordinate!

That’s brought to mind by news from this week’s Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona, where SAP (full disclosure: I’m working on a project for them), and SK Solutions, the global leader in anti­-collision software (heck, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as anti-collision software, let alone that SK was the leader!) have teamed to create a system helping engineering and construction companies increase collision avoidance and protect workers through real-time information sharing.

I’d never thought of it, but modern construction sites are a nightmare in terms of the need for coordination, with huge cranes, a multitude of construction vehicles, and many workers on the site.

The system, being tested at a construction site in Dubai, is gathering actionable, real-time data (historical data is pointless when so many players are interacting right now!) from mobile field workers, equipment and operational processes.

When you think of it, it’s difficult to maximize productivity and cut costs on a job site because so many operations have to be coordinated.

Here’s how it works:

“SK Solutions deploys sensors on cranes and construction vehicles to pull data such as 3­D motion control via inertial motion unit, location via GPS and load weight, equipment usage and wind speed and direction. This data is loaded first into the Navigator real­time operating system and its on­board set of applications, including collision avoidance. The data is then fed through the SK Navigator Anywhere Agent, which uses SAP technology. Site and project managers monitor the equipment via a dashboard built with SK Asteroid, which uses the SAP HANA platform, SAP® 3­D Visual Enterprise applications and SAP LumiraTM software. SK Asteroid 360 Middleware is a cloud­based platform that provides connectivity to SAP® Business Suite software.”

That leads me to another “Essential Truth” of the Internet of Things:

We have to start asking, where are there situations where real-time data from a variety of sources could help coordinate inter-related activities to improve safety & efficiency and reduce costs?

Whether it’s coordinating hospital rooms, integrating supply chains or assembly lines — even traffic flow — there are situations everywhere in which the Internet of Things can improve productivity, reduce operating costs — and even save lives.

N.B. For those who are interested in what the prefix co- really means, it’s from a Latin prefix of the same name, and means togethermutuallyjointly. Class dismissed..

First survey of C-level execs’ view of the IoT

For a big project I’m working on, I’ve fruitlessly combed the Web for surveys of C-level executives’ view of the Internet of Things — until now!

ARM has just released results of a worldwide June survey, “The Internet of Things Business Index: a quiet revolution gathers pace,” that included many C-level executives, which the Economist‘s Intelligence Unit did for ARM about respondents’ attitudes toward the IoT.

I’d strongly advise you to read the entire report for a reality check on the current state of the IoT (provided, of course, that the sample population really reflects corporate attitudes as a whole — in my mind, that’s a big if, because most companies just haven’t been disclosing much information about IoT initiatives. Of course that might be because they view IoT initiatives as a real strategic advantage!).

I was happily surprised, given the low level of business media coverage of the IoT until recent months, to see how many of those surveyed knew about the IoT and were actively involved in planning for corporate initiatives, although most of those initiatives were only in the early research stages and most companies weren’t convinced the IoT would be of major near-term benefit.

The report concluded that companies are taking the IoT seriously, although without a lot of public notice:

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is an idea whose time has finally come. Falling technology costs, developments in complementary fields like mobile and cloud, together with support from governments have all contributed to the dawning of an IoT ‘quiet revolution’. Now, after more than a decade of slow progress, the business community is beginning to look seriously at the IoT—to the extent that a mere 6% of business leaders believe that the idea of IoT is simply hype…”

Here are the major findings:

  • “over three-quarters of companies are either actively exploring or using the IoT. The vast majority of business leaders believe that it will have a meaningful impact on how their companies conduct business, yet there is some divergence about the wider effect it will have”
  • “optimism about the IoT is not yet matched by investment.” 96% expect to use the IoT in some way within 3 years, but they aren’t spending much on it: only 30% have increased their IoT spending by double-digits since 2012.
  • 61% think “companies that are slow to integrate the IoT into their business will fall behind the competition.” Consider yourself forewarned!
  • only 24% felt that the IoT would be “very relevant, used by the majority of the business” within the next 3 years.
  • “A lack of IoT skills and knowledge among employees and management is viewed as the biggest obstacle to using the IoT more extensively. To address these gaps, organisations are training staff and recruiting IoT talent, raising the potential for IoT talent wars. Others are hiring consultants and third-party experts, seeking to build knowledge and identify successful IoT business models.” (sounds like a lot of opportunity for our ilk!)
  • Here’s one that particularly resonated with me because of my relentless emphasis on collaboration as one of the “Essential Truths” of the IoT: “Companies must learn to co-operate with players across industries, including competitors…. businesses must be willing to adopt a different mindset. Successful IoT rollouts require interconnected networks of products and services, but few senior executives currently expect their business to become more co-operative with competitors as a result of the IoT. ” Oops: too bad for you — it ain’t just a technological shift, but an attitudinal one as well!
  • It’s going to lead to a data explosion. While companies think they’re up to this challenge, “….prior experience of storing and analysing large amounts of “big data” may lead them to underestimate the additional talent and skills needed to spot new uses and revenue steams emerging from it.” It will also increase needs for security and privacy. 

The Economist chose the ARM report as the setting to announce a new IoT Business Index, which will be updated to track progress toward actualizing the IoT. In the benchmark edition of the index, most businesses are in the “research” stage (at  point 4 on a scale of 1 to 10). They are more likely to use the IoT at this point for internal operations and processes instead of external products or services. As I’d expected, European companies are in the lead, and, among industries, manufacturing is the leading one. Hmm: wonder if that means a growing number are installing sensors on the assembly line?

The survey included 779 senior business leaders, among whom almost half (49%), were C-level executives or board members. The sample included:

  • 29% from Europe, 29% from North America, 30% from Asia-Pacific, and  12% from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
  • 19 industries. About 10% each from financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, IT and technology, energy and natural resources, and construction and real estate.
  • The sample is evenly split between large firms, with an annual revenue of more than US$500m, and small and mid-sized firms.

All in all, I think this is an important reality check in terms of commercialization of the IoT. It seems that it’s increasingly on the corporate radar, but that hasn’t translated into a lot of concrete action. It will be interesting to track annual updates of The Economist‘s IoT Business Index to see if analysis turns into action.