Should the Internet of Things be invisible?

I just had a little Q&A session with Tim Taberner at Eurotech and he said something unexpected: that the internet of things should become invisible to consumers. Of course the results will enrich people’s lives, but the system driving those results will remain mysterious.

More than that: many of the benefits aren’t accruing directly to consumers. We finished last year’s IoT forum with a panel on new business models in IoT, and one of the interesting points is how much of the value realised in the IoT right now is effectively invisible to end users – from process improvements to sustainability to deeper understanding from product data.

See the panel (with Stan Boland (Neul), Andy Hobsbawm (Evrythng) and Rob Treloar (Unilever))  here – sound quality is a little low, we had some issues with the microphones at the end of the day, but stick with it for some great insights into the competitive landscape of IoT.

And thanks to Tim Taberner for some great insights from one of the most established players in Internet of Things

1. Which markets are you most excited about? If you were starting again, which segment of the IoT market would you focus on?

Eurotech offer a truly cross market platform, and so we’re equally excited about all sectors. The difficult thing for companies coming from a long legacy in M2M, like Eurotech, is realising how much of the IoT landscape falls outside what we think of as M2M, and we’re constantly challenging ourselves to reach beyond our traditional markets.

2. What do you see as the biggest obstacles to widespread IoT use?

The main obstacles are not technological, or even really about price points, they are much more to do with the way projects are conceived and funded. It is still true that most projects are created to sole a point in time monitoring problem around a particular process with a single stakeholder funding the process. This silo funding almost inevitably leads to silo implementations. In an IoT world, many of the benefits of the systems will accrue to departments, organisations or individuals who are not directly part of the funding body, and new business model need to be found to overcome this.

3. Do you think the Internet of Things will ever become a well understood concept for consumers?

I think it will become invisible to consumers. The full concept of the internet is not really well understood by most users of it, and the same will be true with the internet of things. Consumers will see the benefit through new services and applications which will enrich their lives, but I don’t think that they will think about the technology that is underpinning it.

4. For 2014, where do you think we will see the greatest growth in the IoT?

The landscape is still very dynamic, but certainly there seem to be some very interesting initiatives in the transportation sector. Whether these will translate to volume during 2014 is still open to question, but certainly I think that transportation will be one of the early and important drivers of the technology.

5. How do your customers use the IoT to make money? Are you seeing any changes in this?

I think that this is still the biggest question for the industry. There are a number of different models being used, and at the moment I don’t think that there is any single model that is becoming dominant. Some customers see IoT technology as a way to decrease their time to market for what would otherwise be a silo system. Some are using the technology to optimise entire ecosystems rather than individual process, and gaining from the savings made. Others are developing new services and offering these directly to clients.