The IoT continued its toddler-like growth and stumbles in 2016. Here are five trends to look for in 2017 as the IoT enters its adolescence and how to benefit from them.
1. Ecosystems begin to determine winners and losers
Previously these were nice in-the-future concerns; now they will really count. Filling out a whole product value proposition through partnerships has repeatedly proven its importance across B2B and enterprise software sectors. In the IoT, they will be even more critical.
As an example, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is driving the definition of platforms and test beds and should show results in 2017. In the meantime, expect some IoT companies to fail when they can’t gain traction.
If you’re developing IoT infrastructure or platforms, it’s time to get real, regarding building great partnerships, developer programs, tools, incentives and joint marketing programs. Without them, your platform may appear like an empty shopping mall.
If you’re a device manufacturer or application developer, it’s time to place your platform bets so you can focus your resources. If you’re implementing IoT-based systems, you’ve been through this before. Welcome to the next round of the industry’s favorite game, “choose your platform.” Make sure you also evaluate vendors based on their financial health, business models and customer service — not just technology. Learn more in Monetizing IoT: Show me the Money in the section “Ecosystems as the driver of value.”
2. Vendors get serious about experimenting with business models and monetization
This was a big theme at Gemalto’s recent LicensingLive conference and was further driven home by solution partners like Aria Systems. Tech won’t sell if it’s not packaged so that buyers want to buy. Look for innovation in business models and pricing, including subscription models, pay per use, recurring revenue, subsidization or replacement of hardware device revenues with service revenues, monetizing customer data and even pay-per-API call models. If you’re marketing whole solutions, be sure to avoid the “partial solution trap” as described in my article, The Internet of Things: Challenges and Opportunities.
3. Big Data gets “cloudier” (pun intended)
No doubt there will be a lot more data with billions of new connected devices. Not just text and numbers but also images, video and voice can all add significant monetization opportunities to different participants in the value chain. More devices means more data, more potential uses and more cooks in the kitchen. This is a complex cluster of issues: do not expect a resolution of ownership, privacy or value in 2017.
Instead, approach this by building a clear vision of what you want and don’t want with respect to data rights as you enter these discussions. And try to anticipate the genuine needs of your partners. Device manufacturers will likely have a going-in desire to own data produced by their devices; and apps developers, the data they handle; others may be okay with aggregated info. Buyers should make sure they understand what’s happening with their potentially sensitive data. We have already started to see partnerships and deals stall out over intense discussion on data ownership and rights.
4. You’ll need to prove your security, with privacy not far behind
2017 IoT systems are going to need to up their game. No one is going to stand for hacked doorlocks, video cameras or Mirai botnet/DDoS attacks via connected devices much longer. Similar events will come with very high price tags. So far, the IoT has dodged any major incidents with large losses suffered directly by end users.
We could see growth flatten if a major hack of thousands of end users occurs in 2017, especially if hardware devices are ruined or people get hurt. At that point, users will need to receive greater guarantees of security, privacy and integrity. This risk needs to be mitigated if the industry wants to avoid an “IoT winter.”
Vendors will need to invest more in security development and testing before deployment and offer assurances, possibly including insurance. Installers and integrators will need to ensure ecosystem integrity, and buyers will look for these guarantees. Just one flaw could be very expensive: Gartner believes that by 2018 20 percent of smart buildings will suffer digital vandalism through their HVAC, thermostats and even smart toilets.
5. Voice-powered, AI virtual assistants drive a next round of platform wars
Voice will become increasingly important to control IoT systems and computing infrastructure. Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s Viv Labs acquisition underscore the importance of these new AI-assisted voice interfaces. They’ll be used across multiple devices like phones, PCs, tablets, cars, home appliances and other machinery. By 2020, Gartner believes smart agents will facilitate 40 percent of mobile interactions. This is the beginning of a new round of platform battles that you need to recognize, internalize and prepare for.
What do you think? Email me with your predictions, comments or war stories.
This article was extended and updated based on reader comments. If you’d like to read the follow-up article, click here.
Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 30 years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to advisory roles at startups. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on LinkedIn.