Hunting down IOT opportunities
Consumers are set to purchase a massive number of devices and invest significantly in IOT ecosystems.
The Internet of things (IOT) is a difficult concept to understand, largely because it is difficult to explain. Despite the fact that much of what is part of IOT today has been said and done before, the new elements have not been well described and explained.
Come up with a solution that is cheap and simple, and they will buy it.
So, how does one spot an opportunity for using IOT effectively? And by effectively, I mean delivering real returns on investment.
On the consumer front, there have been thousands of proposals for IOT solutions, ranging from the absurd - a fridge sending an SMS to the supermarket when stocks are low, to the dead boring - a house counting how many times a door opens and shuts, to determine if it's worthwhile to keep the air-conditioning on.
However, some IOT gimmicks have worked well, particularly those relating to monitoring the human body. The Discovery Health app is probably the best-known of these, using a person's cellphone, Fitbit or Apple Watch as IOT sensors to track their steps, speed and average heart rate.
So, how to find the next big thing? Here are a few pointers:
- The lure of competition
People love to compete. The competition can take any form - sport, outdoor interests and games are all good candidates. Many runners have remarked on how their efforts and performance have improved since they started sharing their split times and steps with other club members. Even bird-watching has become more like a competition than recreation. If there is an activity that can become competitive, and provides data from a device that can be carried by a human and kept powered, there is an IOT opportunity.
- Geographically distributed communities
Obviously, IOT enables the competition or data sharing to be as wide as desired. When everyone is in the same place, the opportunity becomes a more conventional one, which doesn't need the Internet to collect data.
- Cost saving or financial reward
People will spend money to save or make money. If savings on premiums or rebates to consumers with desirable activities can be achieved, an IOT solution is possible.
- Unresolved irritation factors
Often, people have "if only I could ..." moments. It may be to open the gate for the gardening service back home while on a trip to London, or buying more cat food. Or switching off all systems and hiding because a needy brother has come through the boom into your estate. These small wishes are often shared by lots of people - come up with a solution that is cheap and simple, and they will buy it.
The Pokémon Go craze is exactly the kind of thing fad-IOT thrives on. Imagine interacting with the real environment as a result of the Pokémon/IOT interface? Rewards can become real. Access can be physical, not just virtual. Hysteria can ensue.
Uncounted systems exist to fulfil one purpose only. There are sprinkler systems, heartbeat monitors, alarm systems, stock exchange notifications and apps for just about everything. Integrating these is usually a nightmare. If the need identified requires data from different sources, IOT is the least expensive and easiest way to achieve it.
While some may contend the hype around IOT is exaggerated, I believe there will be steady progress. Among the challenges that need to be addressed are how to communicate successfully and securely between devices, how to transmit and store huge amounts of data, and how to protect privacy, but solutions are being created all the time.
The bottom line is there are massive opportunities out there for entrepreneurs who are able to turn concepts into realities.
Glen Ansell is a recognised thought leader in the world of technology. A serial entrepreneur, he founded his first company, i5 Technology, at 22. Within seven years, he grew it into a multinational business that employed more than 100 people. He joined the global entrepreneur network Endeavor in 2008. He is currently sales and marketing director at business intelligence company Young Blood Consultants, and co-founder and CEO of IOT specialist ThatThing. Ansell has a BCom degree in logistics management from Stellenbosch University, and an honourâs degree in psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand, where he is completing a masterâs degree in the subject. His interests lie in neuropsychology, statistical analysis and the design of human machine interfaces. In his spare time, he builds robots and drones.