There’s a new trend in the IoT space, and it’s called IoT.2. If you haven’t experienced it yet, here’s what’s happening.
Since the arrival of the term “IoT” and the switch from the M2M mindset to the IoT mindset, forward-thinking companies have raced to be first to market with “industry disruptive” or “transformative” IoT solutions. However, more and more companies leveraging IoT for the last few years are coming to us with a similar story. Although they’ve had some success because they were among the early adopters, some of the cutting-edge solutions they’ve invested in are, funnily enough, outdated.
The problem is, in 2016, IoT as a whole was reaching its adolescence. As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, IoT has reached early adulthood thanks to innovation during and because of the pandemic. And that means for companies looking to scale and scale, big, hard choices have to be made about scrapping much of the work done and deployed in the last six years and standardizing on the technologies that won the race. Anyone in NorAm who deployed Sigfox or MiWi knows this fact better than anyone. There was no ecosystem to support those technologies, unlike open technologies like LoRaWAN. The rise of LoRa caused the demise of those leading ‘closed system’ technologies that were critical in the early years of IoT. The vendor lock didn’t work; the people have voted against it. Instead, significant open ecosystems like LoRaWAN are gaining momentum at breakneck speed.
For some companies, this could be a difficult pill to swallow. In IoT’s infancy, everyone did whatever it took to get their solution into the market the quickest. Foresight and thoughtfulness often gave way to speed and PR splashes. The “right” answer was usually “good enough.” Now, company leaders are rethinking and reexamining their approach to the IoT space. This became very clear when I spoke to dozens of companies at the Miami IoT Evolution Expo in June.
The consensus was that these companies are planning to consolidate, and it’s mainly around the technology. They deployed at scale. They know it’s a hard decision to re-work what they’ve built, particularly for those who’ve sunk millions of dollars into the build and now they need to start over. It’s painful, but like so many technologies in the past, IoT has matured. These intelligent leaders know it’s time to evolve.
Here are some of the IoT.2 questions companies should be asking: Is there a better technology today than the one we chose? Better meaning faster, smaller, more affordable, or allowing more data? Did we architect this in an optimal way or for scale? Can we consolidate our vendor engagement, and are we future-proof? Is the ecosystem that supports my technology growing or shrinking? How have sales and deployment models been going?
It might be going great. Some people placed smart bets, and it was future-proof. Not everyone needs to regroup and take a hit. Some IoT disruptive technologies have been an enormous success. Cold chain and temperature monitoring in the foodservice industry is one shining example. Allowing manufacturers, distributors, and restaurant operators to move away from paper record-keeping and into digital record-keeping. Providing digital temperature monitoring was revolutionary in the healthcare industry, and its impact was widespread, possibly lifesaving. In agriculture, a game-changer was moving to battery-operated soil moisture sensing and remote valve control, thus freeing up farmers to do other work. IoT technology-enabled contact tracing during the COVID pandemic initial outbreak made the return to offices safer for employees and continues to be used by hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers as I write this.
It’s at least worth asking oneself the IoT.2 questions. Over time this might save companies a lot of time, pain, and money if they can hit the reset button now versus 4-5 years from now when their technology completely sunsets. Now is the time to look at this, ask the hard questions, and make the difficult decisions before sinking more investment into technologies and architectures that might have a cap to their scalability.
If you’re due for an IoT.2 refresh, you don’t have to go it alone. A few years ago, you’d have to go out there and talk to a hundred people to find out what was available, but now there are plenty of IoT experts that can fill you in on everything IoT and have sorted through the vaporware for you. You no longer have to suffer through the bleeding edge. You could continue to do it yourself, but why? It won’t save you money. There are aggregators in IoT today. Find one of them and work with them. And it doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out process. Within a couple of weeks or months, you can identify the next big step on your IoT journey, including a cost-effective way to rip and replace, scrap, and rebuild your new, more innovative empire.
IoT.2 has started, and the landscape has changed. It’s worth a new look with fresh eyes.