10 giant steps for the Internet of Things in 2016

Source: CIO on December 5, 2016 | Scott Nelson

It’s that time of year again. The “10 technology trends” and “5 ways the Internet of Things (IoT) will change your business next year” prognostications are coming out. I always read these and enjoy the critical thinking behind the authors’ lists. And every year I think about looking back at last year’s lists to see how well the forecasters did, but there isn’t much value in “I told you so” whether you are saying it or hearing it so I let that urge pass.

I find more value in learning from mistakes and successes in the analysis than judging the forecasts. So this year I thought I would do something a little different. I looked back at the events of 2016 and evaluated which events marked real progress in the advancement of IoT. So here, in no particular order, are my 10 giant steps forward for the Internet of Things in 2016.

1. Softbank acquires ARM showing value of the edge.

Softbank’s acquisition of ARM for 25 times revenue was a force major establishing the of the value of the edge in IoT. Softbank captured two key resources for its IoT strategy: a dominant foothold in the infrastructure of the IoT in the form of microprocessors at the edge and over 5,000 people who understand how to create and innovate in the digital world. The price fed bubble talk for many but provided insight and focus within the technology stack for those who understand that IoT is not a fad but a major shift that will create new value for decades. I also note that the press release was the first I have ever seen that cited singularity as an M&A thesis.

2. GE moves Predix to Microsoft Azure to focus on application services.

Predix was one of the big five IoT cloud platforms but when GE moved to host it on Azure and then followed with a string of IoT application supporting acquisitions they solidified the consolidation of the cloud platforms and clarified that the real value was at the application layer. GE now refers to Predix as a cloud operating system and offers an array of IoT application support services: data analytics, equipment health forecasting, field service logistics. Predix is to industrial IoT as Windows is to desktop computing and GE is assembling its version of “Office” for those looking to transform their businesses with the IoT.

3. Fitbits used in 100 clinical trials validates consumer wearables. 

One of the most discussed topics in healthcare is the “snake oil” of the new wave of IoT-driven consumer health products. Meanwhile, behind all the arguments of accuracy, precision and clinical relevance researchers are quietly using Fitbits in over 100 clinical trials of devices and therapies. The emergence of this consumer-wearable technology in clinical validation shows that the value of sensors is not apriori determined by its accuracy, rather its value is in what it measures and the importance of same. In this case, researchers get new insights into human behavior and its effect on the devices and therapies they are testing.

4. Omada Health behavior modification app receives CMS reimbursement.

2016 will be remembered as the year when therapists finally embraced human behavior modification as a method of care. Every year the CDC publishes a report that highlights how 50 percent of chronic care costs, which make up 85 percent of all healthcare costs, are due to patient behavior, or more correctly misbehavior. Omada Health was a leader in a study that showed how mobile apps integrated with simple DIY consumer devices like weight scales and activity monitors help patients with pre-diabetes change their behavior, lose weight, and avoid the onset of the disease. Omada showed that a mobile app operated by patients can provide meaningful medical outcomes. Centers for Medicare-Medicaid Services (CMS) is approving reimbursement for that care.

5. Verizon and AT&T solidify IoT ecosystem with launch of LTE Cat M networks.

If we put aside the challenge of following the LTE steering group’s IoT acronym shell game — Cat 0, Cat 1, Cat M1, Cat M2, NB-IoT — the fact that both ATT and Verizon announced the near-immediate availability of an IoT-specific networks marked carrier recognition of the IoT as a market separate from smartphones. Some say the announcements were an attempt to forestall the emergence of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) upstarts like LoRaWAN, Ingenu and Sigfox. and this certainly played a role for these U.S.-based carriers. But the Cat M announcements validate the ecosystem of everything from components to modems to spectrum for developers and give them a familiar carrier option for their IoT solutions. Attention now shifts to the service plan designs for these new applications, i.e. cost per megabyte versus cost to connect versus cost per year per device. The LPWAN competition will shake out the business models and developers can design with the confidence that their applications will be supported by network suppliers.

6. Qualcomm moves from mobile to IoT, acquires NXP. 

The value of Moore’s Law has shifted from increased processing power at reduced cost to reduced power at reduced cost. As the dominant provider of integrated processor and connectivity technology to the mobile and smart phone industry, Qualcomm’s acquisition of broad line microprocessor and semiconductor manufacturer NXP confirmed the IoT as the growth market for the semiconductor industry. Qualcomm bought both NXP’s edge-capable devices and the long tail distribution channel that it knew it needed to reach the emerging suppliers of IoT solutions. I hope that the technology flow will go both ways and the emerging IoT developers will gain access to the technologies Apple and Google have had enjoyed from Qualcomm.

7. NEST “bricks” Revolv and everyone learns a lesson. 

When it comes to the IoT, hardware and software are inseparable. You can’t treat hardware like it is software. Nest became the poster child of how not to manage an IoT product lifecycle when it announced that not only would it no longer provide updates to its Revolv product, it was going to “brick” them all. This might work when users can just download a newer version of an app, but this doesn’t work when the product is controlling people’s homes and part of their physical life. The uproar was immediate and harsh, deservedly so. Nest validated all the traditional home control manufacturers’ prognostications that Nest was not a serious home control product. IoT product managers all learned a lesson from Nest’s blunder, or should have.

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