Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Will a strong IoT ecosystem beat out the push for standards?

Last week I attended a breakfast event on IoT organized by SEMI at their HQ in San Jose.  There seems to be an IoT event every week in Silicon Valley right now but this one was just down the street from the new Avnet office where I’m based so hard to pass up. If you are following all things IoT then you know you can spend hours a day reading about it and the bandwagon gets bigger every day which explains why SEMI jumped aboard.  SEMI is the industry group for semiconductor equipment manufacturers so very upstream of semiconductor companies and OEM’s who use chips in their products.  I suppose SEMI sees IoT as huge end market opportunity that will eventually create demand for new fabs which will be filled by their members gear.  

The speaker roster had someone from Applied Materials on it but the really interesting content came from Gartner, Synopsys and ARM who all have a lot to say about IoT.

Karen Bartleson had a big role in that she was speaking on behalf of the IEEE standards association and also her employer, Synopsys who will benefit from IoT as chipmakers need to buy more tools to design the silicon for IoT.  Karen talked about the “Open Stand” process  and how the standards sausage is made, she also noted there are currently 900 standards underway in the IEEE-SA which was many more than I imagined, to me a hundred would seem to be enough, clearly I need to take a deeper look at the world of standards. Karen said the IoT standard will be called IEEE2030 because that’s the year that the standard will be complete. At first I thought she was joking, but no, it really is called IEE2030, check out this standards set courtesy of the IEEE:


All joking aside, Karen raised an important issue which is when a new technology inflection point occurs (and I see the IoT as important as the PC and mobile eras) there is a period of turmoil and opportunity that changes the world forever.  It’s in this primordial soup of technology evolution that fortunes are made and lost and why you should care about what’s going on in the world of IoT.  

I started this blog in May of 2013 and kicked it off with my 7 essential elements of IoT success with standards being one of them but I didn’t realize at the time that standards would take so long.  

So the big question has to be why will it take another 16 years to get a set of standards for the IoT?  

Past experience is always a guide I suppose and the IEEE has been in the standards game for decades so they should know, but the other factor is the electronics industry itself and deep vested interests.  The formation of new groups (Industrial Internet Consortium for example) to push collaboration and standards by Intel, Qualcomm, Microsoft, AT&T, GE etc. combined with the plethora (and I do mean plethora) of other standards bodies beyond the IEEE who have a hand in this (ITU, IPSO, SIA, UL, NIST etc..) could mean years of stalemate and argument with vested interests lobbying for an advantage. A great PhD project would be to look at how setting standards accelerated (or slowed) innovation.  In Karen’s defense of the timeline the IoT extends well beyond the chip and the system to homes, cars, grids and cities where replacement and upgrades happen slowly so maybe 2030 is the right number. 

At the session I got another gem from Al Velosa of Gartner who pointed out that no single company has a strong IoT ecosystem yet and this explains why many of the major players in technology are jockeying for position with their own consortia and alliances rather than waiting for the IEEE to make the sausage.  Most large companies in and around technology see that billions of connected devices generating zettabytes of data will create revenue opportunities that dwarf their current businesses and they don’t want to be the next DEC, Wang, Nokia or Blackberry.  

So if you want to really understand how the IoT will play out then watch the formation of ecosystems whether by alliances or mergers and acquisitions through 2014 (Zebra buying the Motorola bar code business yesterday is a great example).  Here are the 4 areas of ecosystems development that need to connect as defined by Gartner:

It’s fairly easy to see who has the deepest pockets but it’s also noteworthy that a lot of the new companies in IoT are crowd funded startups; something I have written about before and strongly believe will bring us some new dominant players over time.  Many crowd funded startups lean heavily on open source hardware and software and this in itself may be way the IoT brings about standards much faster than the tortuous IEEE route.  Open source levels the playing field for everyone and that’s not necessarily embraced by the incumbents in a market (think Apple and Android for a defining example).  

So here’s a hypothesis to end with; does a large thriving ecosystem negate the need for standards?   This happened in the PC market and to some extent in the mobile phone market.  Can we wait until 2030 for a set of standards to rally around?

Friday, February 28, 2014

some free training on IoT around the US, starts in Atlanta, then rolls into Austin and Denver and we donate what you would have paid to the Wounded Warrior project

Thought I would pass this along not just because its coming from Avnet but it gives anyone who is involved in an IoT project a chance to get the latest from key vendors face to face. Also this event series is free to attendees but Avnet will donate what would have been the registration fee to the Wounded Warrior project so there's a double benefit.  Here is a quick rundown of the event:

Avnet Embedded introduces the Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Bootcamp, a one-of-a-kind event that will provide attending customers with a tour of the embedded world. Hear from key lines and talk trends in embedded processing, displays, software and storage. And, visit the Supplier Expo to master the latest design solutions and learn valuable strategies, insights and techniques from our innovative partner companies!
If you’re working on integrating, designing and implementing technology in 2014 and beyond, then this event is for you. Space is limited so click the Register Now button below today to reserve your FREE all access pass while seats are still available.
WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT™
In lieu of a registration fee, Avnet Embedded is asking all attendees to make a cash donation, in any amount, to support the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization whose broad appeal reaches across demographic, geographic and political boundaries. Wounded Warriors is a non-partisan organization by design. It’s not about the war; it’s about the warrior.
COST: FREE
   
The dates for the first 3 events are below,  just click on the event to register:

    Monday, February 24, 2014

    Connecting to the Cloud, you have to do it sometime so here is some free education

    For anyone who's followed my blog you know that the cloud is key to all things IoT but there is much more to it than meets the eye.  In this session from Texas Instruments and Exosite (live or on-demand) you will learn about hardware and software (some free) you can use today to get your system cloud connected.

    In the spirit of full disclosure I now work for Avnet and TI is a key partner but this content is so good I decided to post here on my personal blog.  At the end of the day we all need to use real products and write good code so I feel its OK to plug these folks.  This is actually a series of webinars and you buy the hardware pre-release which is also very cool if you  want the latest in ARM MCU's and some solid code development tools to boot (bad pun, sorry!).

    Click here for the Innovation hour webinar series

    Avnet & Texas Instruments Innovation Hour Webinar Series

    Monday, January 6, 2014

    A look back at 2013 and 3 predictions for the IoT in 2014

    A quick look back at the 2013 year in IoT and three predictions for 2014.

    I started this blog in May 2013 just when the “Internet of Things” was heating up and you may remember my post using Google trends in September showing a huge increase in interest on the phrase “internet of things” over time and that continued to a new peak in November (December traffic drops due to the holidays).  Here is the latest chart:





    I expect it to hit even new highs this January as the annual CES show in Las Vegas jumps on the bandwagon and the media feast on IoT.  One interesting side note to the trend chart is that interest in IoT is even higher in China and India (by searches) than it is here in the US which goes to show it’s a global phenomenon and the US isn’t the leader.  Looking back at 2013 I don’t think we can call it the year of IoT because so few concrete examples of the IoT are in action and I’m not sure 2014 will see a flood of IoT applications but I predict 2015 will be the first year when IoT becomes a force in technology.  

    Many pundits have weighed in on 2013 as a year in technology, some saying nothing happened and others countering with a long list of milestones (Farhad Manjoo in the WSJ) for example.  From my perspective (as a semiconductor guy far from the social media bubble) I think there were 3 major developments we need to review which point us to what may happen in 2014 in IoT and the broader semiconductor market. 

    First I was amazed by the stock price of Micron which rocketed 228% in 2013 (this is not a typo).  When was the last time those of us in Semi’s saw anything like this for a company of Micron’s size? (Feel free to comment).  There are lots of reasons for Micron’s performance in 2013 but the biggest was the shift to flash memory not just in mobile but the cloud and I think this is going to accelerate in 2014.  The memory market is notoriously volatile and many canny investors will be shorting Micron in 2014 but given the huge demand for memory (see below) I think Micron (and most memory vendors) will have another big year.  I base this on charts like the one below from IDC & Intel that now seems to appear in every semiconductor road map presentation and it’s all about getting to 200 billion devices connected to the Internet; yes the real IoT.    



    The problem with exponential growth though is that the numbers become mind boggling when you start to do even rudimentary analysis.  Many of these IoT devices (think jet engines) throw off data at such a rate that the storage needs of the IoT cloud will also need to grow exponentially.  

    Some of this storage will be flash (good news for Micron) but flash isn’t keeping up with capacity demands the way a good old hard drive can, so vendors like Seagate and Western Digital still think they are going to sell millions of high terabyte drives in the next five years.  All of those terabyte drives are going to have to store 6,000 exabytes of data in 2020 (according to WD) and that’s going to drive huge sales of storage and cloud related semiconductors (maybe Avago’s purchase of LSI Logic was perfectly timed?)
    This does point to a much needed inflection point in memory technology and a huge investment opportunity for the company that cracks the storage problem.  As an aside the other giant nut to be cracked is battery storage capacity which yet again would be another huge inflection point in world history if someone can produce a battery for electric cars with 300 mile range at reasonable weight.  Isn’t it interesting that the worlds greatest technology and environmental challenges actually come down to the storage of electrons!

    My second 2013 to 2014 extrapolation point is whats happening in crowd funding,  I wrote about this back in June of 2012 in my EETimes blog when I ordered a Pebble watch but since then there have been some very significant products (many IoT by the way)  and companies emerging from crowd funding roots.  Rich Quinell of IOTWorld.com did a nice synopsis of the top 12 companies by funding and I think several of these could become major players in a few years (Canary, Smart Things and Scanadu for example).  You can buy Pebble watches now at Best Buy so I think they have crossed the chasm already.  Crowdfunding is one of those Internet innovations that few people could have predicted just a couple of years ago but it has huge implications for the way products are brought to market and it removes venture capital from the equation and tests the viability of a product in real time which is the ultimate market test. 

    My third prediction of IoT developments and opportunities in 2014 is about security and I’ve been writing about the huge issue of data security and ownership from my very first blog (including my 7 fundamentals of IoT).  In December 2013 the latest large data breach hit Target Stores who lost 40 million credit and debit card records to hackers and if you do more research you’ll find those card numbers are on the black market already.  Back in my tech media days we wrote about systems security all the time but it never gets the attention it deserves until something catastrophic happens and I think this will be true in IoT as well.  In the IoT market there probably won’t be a lot of credit card or financial data flowing through passive data collection devices but my fear is that data could still be highly valuable, even personal (health records for example) so its going to be an issue of how secure it is. 

    As always in large complex systems there is always the inevitability of unintended consequences and my current worry is who actually owns the data?  Data mining could become so valuable in terms of business and financial decision making that whoever owns the data owns the profits.  How we find a way to freely share data in an open source way that benefits the greater good is going to be hotly debated  and maybe 2014 will be the year we do something about it.
    .
    So there are my 3 big predictions for 2014:


    1. Data volume will start to grow exponentially therefore creating opportunities for many semiconductor and cloud companies (who will be up 200% in 2014?). 
    2. Crowd funding will continue to evolve and be a major factor in the development of the IoT, one of these companies will be big in 2014. 
    3. Last but not least the security wars are just breaking out and they need to be solved or the IoT revolution may be stalled (watch for the first IoT security breach).
    Please comment below and get in touch if you are coming to Silicon Valley in 2014.

      

    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    Code can kill

    In my original blog back in May I posited that the Internet of Things sits on 7 pillars (8 if we add investment) and here they are:


    1. Sensing and Control
    2. Connectivity
    3. Analytics (big data) and the cloud
    4. Security 
    5. Applications, ROI and 2nd/3rd order effects
    6. Standards and Regulation
    7. Ecosystems and Communities
    8. Investment Opportunities
    I always knew that security was going to be a huge issue and this was before the Edward Snowden and NSA revelations but my thinking was changed this week after I read a series of articles on EETimes.com about the Toyota unintended acceleration cases that are finally getting through the court system.  My old colleague Michael Barr of the Barr Group was an expert witness in one of the cases and he pointed out how poorly written the code was in the Toyota engine control unit.  You can read the articles series here and I strongly recommend you do but for me the learning was that pillar #4 on security really should cover Security AND Safety.  My concern is that as we connect billions of devices to the web, many of those devices will be running code that was written in an earlier time when the added complexity of web access was simply not a possibility.  At ARM TechCon last week in Santa Clara I mentioned this thought to Patrick Mannion the editor of EDN.com and he thinks this could be the new Y2K problem that sneaking up on us and he may be right.  So now my 7 pillars look like this:
    1. Sensing and Control
    2. Connectivity
    3. Analytics (big data) and the cloud
    4. Security and Safety
    5. Applications, ROI and 2nd/3rd order effects
    6. Standards and Regulation
    7. Ecosystems and Communities
    8. (Investment Opportunities)
    There was lots of IoT talk at TechCon last week starting with the ARM CEO Simon Segars and IoT products are popping up in every exhibitors demo plus my IoT Google alerts are going nuts so I think we have passed a tipping point and there's no going back.  Would love to hear your thoughts on the Toyota case and what it means for IoT.



    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Microchip makes a smart cloud move and hooks up with Amazon web services

    If you read this blog regularly you know I have pointed out how important the connectivity layer is in #IoT and that a good cloud solution is key to everything that happens next so its interesting to see Microchip getting a jump on the trend by hooking up with the biggest (maybe the best?) cloud outfit there is;  Amazon.  

    They have a WiFi kit (for $99) and a cloud development platform that should speed time to working prototype.  I expect many more microcontroller vendors to jump on this now.  You can read the details here: http://www.microchip.com/pagehandler/en-us/press-release/microchips-cloud-based-develop.html 

    Who will be the last MCU vendor to announce their cloud solution?

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Got a new gig but the blog plays on! Intel Quark launch intrigues

    As of this month I joined Avnet Electronics Marketing as Brand Director for the America's (translation;  I'm a marketing guy now).  Avnet if you don't know is the worlds leading distributor of components and technology, chips to systems to put it another way.  If you want to get in touch here is my LinkedIn profile; http://www.linkedin.com/in/dblaza/

    I am going to continue this blog because the IoT space is really interesting right now and I will have some even deeper insights in my new role that I will share when appropriate.  You can follow me on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/dblaza

    I will be based in Silicon Valley and at events like ARM TechCon and DesignCon but feel free to get in touch if you have something to share on #IoT, Distribution or #Embedded.

    Biggest news I saw in weeks was the surprise launch of the Intel Quark processor at the Maker Faire in Rome.  Clever PR move to get on the Arduino bandwagon but there are a lot of questions about how the boards will get to market and how open it will be.  This is one to watch.