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. 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The FTC is taking a close interest in IoT security, maybe you should too

Just blogged over on #EETimes about a recent FTC action against +TRENDnet should be a wakeup call for everyone who thinks about #IoT and info security http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1319517&

Check out the link to the FTC workshop on IoT security on November 19 in Washington DC, that could be a seminal event.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why you need a cloud strategy for IoT

Just blogged over on EETimes about why IoT rollouts really need a cloud strategy and not reinventing the wheel. http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1319480&

Really like the App store approach seecontrol used.  Keep it simple stupid! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Intel discovers IoT with Quark; but where's the ecosystem?

A big question hovering over the IoT space has been where is Intel? They were touting "Intelligent Systems" as their way forward but that was in reality a catchall phrase for their existing business of PC's, servers and the cloud. Until this week Intel could not legitimately say they were a player in the IoT market and had no answer to the ARM model.

Well today its different and at IDF in San Francisco the new Intel CEO (Brian Krzanich) dropped the IoT bomb with Quark. The official release is here.  Quark will be a low power, small footprint processor with some flexibility for on chip peripherals but how this will work is unclear to me right now.  Quark looks like an SoC but exactly how it will be configurable by developers is unknown.

Dev boards are supposed to appear in Q4 and that will be an exciting time to see what impact Intel might have on the IoT space.  One interesting side benefit for Intel is that they now have a platform showcasing how Wind River and McAfee might work together and that's significant because it gets customer interest and access in non traditional Intel markets.

One last thought on Quark is that it gives Intel an opportunity to build a new and dynamic ecosystem around their chip family because without an answer to the ARM connected community (no matter how good the silicon) they can't compete.  Intel should never be underestimated in our market and I look forward to seeing how the company evolves by grasping the IoT opportunity.

What would a successful Quark ecosystem have to look like to get them in the game?  Would love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New site dedicated to IoT launched this week

A new site dedicated to all things IoT launched this week.  Its from UBM and sponsored by Freescale but the content should be good.  Probably more skewed to hardware but we will see how it does.  Go over here: http://www.iotworld.com/ and register to check it out and participate.

The IEEE Standards Org is having an IoT workshop in Silicon Valley in November

One of the major challenges of IoT is standards or the lack thereof so the venerable IEEE Standards organization is getting together in November (5 & 6) at the Silicon Valley Computer History Museum,  if this floats your boat the details are here: http://iot.ieeesa-events.org/

Its a very reasonable $99 to get in if your are an IEEE member or $199 otherwise.  The big plus here is you can suggest a panel and get to participate if you move quickly.  Why not get in on the ground floor as they say!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I love infographics and this IoT Smart World is worth a look

If a picture is worth a thousand words then what's an infographic worth?  Here is Libelium's Smart World which is cool and leans towards sensing rather than cloud or big data.

Libelium is a start up from Spain and has some interesting products and a community of developers around the world.  Its going to be interesting watching which sensor network players can emerge from the pack to be successful.  I will blog on my guesses on potential winners soon.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

IoT M&A is going to heat up, ARM buys Sensinode, who is next?

One telltale sign of a market developing is big players buying startups in a strategic way and ARM buying Sensinode (story here)  is a big thumbs up for IoT.  So many disparate pieces of technology, standards and policy need to get connected in IoT so expect much more activity this year and I predict there will be a blockbuster acquisition at some point, a little like Facebook and Instagram but on our scale!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A real internet of things device; check out my review

If there are any IoT skeptics out there check out this device I installed in my car last week,  to me its the real thing but there are questions about security Automatic

Monday, August 12, 2013

There is no single internet of things; yet!

Rick Merritt,  the EETimes silicon valley bureau chief is stirring the pot on #IoT by pointing out how fragmented IoT really is.  I agree but the landscape can change quickly and unexpectedly so perhaps a more interesting question is "who is going to glue it all together?"  The next Google lies therein!   read the story here: http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319184

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

As predicted the IoT standards wars are getting underway

In my first blog post on IoT back in May I noted that standards and regulation would become an issue (it was #6 on my list of issues) and in the last few days I've seen an MIT researcher weigh in on this and today there is a new standards group announced on the "Industrial Ethernet" click here for details.
The IEEE (who brought you the 802.x.x) standards also are in the fray and there are multiple protocols out there that can already be used for communication.  Add to this all the wireless standards bodies out there like Wifi, Zigbee, Bluetooth and GSMA and its going to get interesting.  Would love to see a landscape of all the standards bodies and industry associations in the mix for IoT.  Might be a good weekend project unless you already know someone who has do the hard work?

Getting started with IoT; go DIY with these tiny boards and experience the democratization of technology

I believe one of the major drivers of IoT will be the widespread availability of cheap yet powerful micro controllers and free software.  Its this combination that is driving a lot of experimentation and Kickstarter projects that will bring us some game changing IoT products.  Here are 10 very small (and fairly cheap) boards that you can use to get something prototyped and working: 10 tiny cheap dev boards

Here's a little insider tip though, if you go to an electronics trade show like Design West in San Jose, Embedded World in Germany or many other regional events you may find companies like STMicro, NXP, TI, Atmel and Freescale giving away USB powered dev boards (and software) for free.  However you get the board isn't as important as plugging it in and finding out how easy it is to get it working.  To me this is the democratization of technology and a time when anyone can design and build useful electronics and possibly change the world.  Go and get a board!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Free sources of "big data" from the government could generate some cool IoT apps

If you have read my previous post on what the barriers are to widespread adoption of the Internet of Things then you know my take is that connectivity and data ownership (not security by the way) are the 2 biggest.  One obvious source of free and open data though comes from our government (highly dependent on where you live though!) and here in the US we have some good sources:

From the Feds:  https://explore.data.gov  this is a treasure trove of data on health, demographics, financial filings, maps, crime etc...    there have to be some very cool #IoT apps that can flow from combining your data with some of this.  Let me know if you see anything interesting and comment below please.

In California there is a group called California Common Sense who have made getting at the data easier by working with some data visualization companies; check it out here https://data.cacs.org

To me this is one of the fun aspects of IoT,  how can we combine data to get new insights and useful applications to market?  This is one I am going to ponder for a while and hopefully get some real examples to share.


Just blogged over on EETimes.com about Chromecast from Google and how it might impact the Internet of Things #IoT.  Whats interesting to me is how this kind of technology comes to market, Google didn't invent or develop it, they took an interesting but obscure Chinese market product and improved the software interface and user experience, not a bad model. Go here to read my rant

Monday, July 22, 2013

The IoT devices keep on coming, this one on IndieGoGo, its a $169 home security system

I am absolutely amazed by the number of IoT devices coming onto the market right now,  I have ordered quite a few myself but have to stop before I go broke.  Here is another one thats looks beautifully designed (haven't seen the real thing yet) and chock full of sensors all for $169:
Canary is a single device that contains an HD video camera and multiple sensors that track everything from motion, temperature and air quality to vibration, sound, and activity to help keep you, your family and your home safe.
Controlled entirely from your iPhone or Android device, Canary alerts you when it senses anything out of the ordinary — from sudden temperature changes that can indicate a fire, to the sound and movement that could mean an intrusion. Instantly receive, view and act on the alerts wherever you are. Over time, Canary learns your home’s rhythms to send you smarter alerts. Canary is the smartest way to stay secure.
This is an exciting time in IoT!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

IoT and NFC, NFC has never delivered on its promise but could this Chinese application bring it to life?

In my previous life I was involved in RFID and NFC for a brief time and my take is that both are failed technologies looking for a solution (if you don't agree please comment).  As a student of esoteric tech I found this product from China that seems to validate a real world use of NFC,  its also a great thing to see from a cultural point of view.  Click on this link and watch the 2 minute video,  you will not be disappointed.  There is a also a massive subtext here on security and privacy that should be discussed somewhere!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

does IoT need an architecture? good #Atmel interview with someone who thinks so

Its a massive temptation for engineers to want to describe, template and standardize everything and maybe for good reasons but does IoT need an architecture?  Atmel's Tom Vu interviews Rob van Kranenburg to get his take: http://atmelcorporation.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/11-interview-with-rob-van-kranenburg-part-1/

Watching IoT standards play out is going to be like a Shakespearean play,  a few plot twists coming!

A Triilion sensors, this will drive the Internet of Things

Am blogging again for my alma mater, EETimes.com also on IoT but deeper tech than I usually cover here.  Just wrote a piece on the coming explosion in sensor deployment and the numbers are staggering, the trillion sensor world is not that far away and it will drive IoT by necessity.  The story is here: http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1318920

If you email me I can send you the excellent 40 slide presentation on the trillion sensor opportunity that Janusz Brysek of +Fairchild Invent presented at SemiCon West last week.

Monday, July 15, 2013

if this then that; simplicity is beautiful and IoT can be this easy

I'm a big believer in simple, powerful ideas and with all the complexity and angst around the Internet of things I want you to check out IFTTT.com.  This site is based on the simple concept that if X happens do Y, all programmed through the web using a "recipe" that you set up.  There are some recipes already built that you can use or set up your own such as every time you take an iPhone picture its uploaded to Flickr.  Not groundbreaking or profound stuff but its a start on the path to making the Internet of things viable and useful.  History teaches that lots of things are possible with existing technology but sometimes a "trigger" product is needed to unlock its potential and take it mainstream, the obvious example being what Apple did with the boring cellphone or what Twitter did for SMS.

If this then that might not become a Twitter but it certainly has the potential for a lot of fun and a real introduction to IoT.  Go check it out; IFTTT.com

Monday, July 8, 2013

Another reason I love IoT; lots of left field startups

One very healthy sign of an emerging market is lots of wild and wacky startups and the IoT is not disappointing us.  In an earlier post on the IoT landscape I noted that there were dozens of companies I hadn't heard of and I think the surge of Kickstarter and bootstrapped companies bodes well for the IoT market.  Now history tells us that 90%+ of these companies will fail but the true art in being an investor or analyst is finding those 2 or 3 that will break out of the sub $1m category and become viable players.  A lot of IoT startups are pursuing interesting applications but only a few have picked markets that can scale and generate real profits.  Another pitfall for many startups is that they pursue an application or market that is easily co-opted into an existing hardware or software product leaving them vulnerable.  Automatic comes to mind;  I have ordered this device which plugs into the OBD port of your car so you can track usage and performance and I hope to get mine soon.  Unfortunately I think they are vulnerable because car manufacturers could easily include this feature in their cars in the future and where does that leave Automatic?

An under the radar IoT application is the industrial market and I think it has huge potential and even though GE, Honeywell, Siemens and Schneider are all over it there is room for innovation.  So when I saw this company pop up  http://www.equipstick.com/index.php I took a look.  Equipstick seems to have the right idea in that their device attach's to existing machines and then reports on their performance.  There is a huge installed base so this has the potential to grow and make a difference.  My earlier comment still holds in that new industrial equipment will likely have this functionality built in but there are so many applications and legacy equipment out there for them to be successful (as compared to 10 car companies).  Looks like Equipstick is still in beta but I will try to get a device and blog on it.

As a postscript just wanted to update you on my IoT investment index and as of 11am PST this morning its up 2.19% since I launched it 3 weeks ago (not bad!);  here it is: http://dblaza.blogspot.com/2013/06/how-to-invest-in-internet-of-things-my.html

If you have seen some cool startups recently please add a comment below and we will take a look.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cisco says the Internet of Things (they say Everything) will add $14 trillion of value over the next 10 years; where do they get these numbers?

If you have read this blog over the last few weeks then you know I am an unashamed booster for everything IoT but when I saw the quote from Cisco about IoT adding over $14 trillion of value in the next 10 years I had to take a closer look.  Cisco has created a value index which describes how they came up with the numbers, you can read it here: http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/innov/IoE-Value-Index_External.pdf

Cisco's Internet of Everything concept seems to cover a much broader set of applications and markets than what I normally refer to as IoT but their estimates are by their own admission are very conservative so we could be on the right track.  here are the areas where value will be derived:


For me the real test is seeing real use cases that generate tangible savings or value.  I am now on a mission to find some and will write them up here.  Have you found any?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Looking at the Internet of Things; a landscape (infographic)

As I write this blog and try to get my arms around what IoT is I thought a visual landscape would be a great idea and started work on it.  As it turns out smarter and swifter minds than mine had already created a beautiful version (Matt Turck  @mattturck and Sutian Dong @sutiandong of Firstmark Capital).  Its a jpg and its below (if its copyrighted I will gladly put in a link).  Its very comprehensive and just scanning it you would have to be an IoT savant to not find a couple of companies you don't know.  Perhaps its my chiphead bias but I found very few semiconductor and sensor companies on the list but its still a fantastic effort and maybe one that can be open sourced so #IoT watchers can add to it. Last week I posted my IoT investment index in this blog and there are many semiconductor and hardware companies on the list because I strongly believe they will capture the bulk of the value in IoT.  
My IoT index is only a week old and off 1.64% so far, but last week was rough for the market in general.  

Here is Matt and Sutian's landscape (click to enlarge):



Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to invest in the Internet of Things (my 18 stock IoT index)

How to invest in the Internet of Things



In my rough framework of IoT I describe 7 categories that make the up the market with an 8th category of investment which as a believer in the opportunity I will explore in this post.  Here are those categories again:
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 as I see them

I have decided to put my own money where my mouth is on the investment opportunity and create an IoT portfolio that can act as an Index for this emerging market.  There aren’t any public pure play IoT companies out there today so I need to pick companies who are in the best position to profit from the growth.  Some companies are so large that even though they are major players in technology the amount of revenue they generate from IoT today is so small its not really material to this index (think Intel and Microsoft for example).

Here are my first pass candidates by category:

1. Sensing and Control:

a. TSMC (TSM, the silicon arms dealer to the world, they make a large % of the worlds chips and my first pick as an IoT investment)

b. ARM (ARMH, probably the best direct proxy for IoT)

c. Microchip (MCHP; for a broad portfolio of micro’s and an emerging wireless and analog business)

d. Freescale (FSL; for portfolio, free software and new leadership)

e. Texas Instruments (TXN; triple winner for MCU’s, wireless and analog/sensors)

f. Atmel (ATML; one word, arduino)

g. ST (STM; in ARM micro’s but the leader in MEMS)

h. Maxim (MXIM; the world needs analog chips, these guys deliver)

i. Linear (LLTC; analog leader and now in mesh networks, best run semiconductor company)

j. Avnet (AVT; biggest distributor of hardware in the world, the IoT infrastructure and devices need to get built and a lot of the chips will pass through them)

2. Connectivity

a. Sprint/Nextel (S, long been a proponent of M2M, owns 50% of Clearwire and is in the middle of a takeover battle but a good representative for the IoT carrier play)

b. Cisco (CSCO; has to be in the mix since they power the web and are touting the Internet of Everything which is IoT)

3. Analytics and the Cloud

a. IBM ( IBM; plays in much of big data and software so despite its size and variety of businesses I decided to add it

b. Google (GOOG, Android, Cloud, Google Glass, Google Fiber, Google Now, the list is endless)

c. Amazon AMZN, for web services and the fact they will sell a lot of IoT devices)

d. Rackspace (RAX; we all need a Cloud and these guys sell the vapor!)

4. Security

Security is a tough category; most of the major players are private or pre-IPO (Green Hills Software and Bromium for example).  Symantec could be a candidate but they are silent on IoT so far.

5. Applications/ROI (OEM’s fit here)

Which OEM’s will benefit the most from IoT?  This is the end product category so here are my picks:

a. Apple (AAPL; seems obvious, especially with the watch coming but also the fact that many IoT apps will run on iOS devices)

b. Honeywell (HON; all those building and HVAC systems can benefit mightily from IoT)
c. Siemens, GE, Johnson Controls, Bosch and Schneider Electric are all major industrial players but a small % of their business is really IoT so I passed.

6. Standards and Regulations

Not a lot of investment opportunity here unless one standard wins out over another and a manufacturer holds all the cards (Qualcomm with CDMA for example) and I don’t see that in IoT where a lot of the players support Open Source hardware and software.   The IEEE will have a major influence here but are an association.

7. Ecosystems and Communities

In IoT we haven’t seen many communities reach critical mass yet, Kickstarter has been a driver of interesting hardware. I bought a Pebble watch and a Twine via Kickstarter and have the Dash/Lynk OBD (I hope) and SparkCore arduino Wi-Fi kit coming.
The IPSO alliance (http://www.ipso-alliance.org/) seems the purest IoT ecosystem so far although ARM’s connected community is up there.  Unfortunately I don’t see an investment play yet.

Conclusion; I have created an IoT investment portfolio from these 18 public  companies and will buy the stocks myself in my 401k to show how much I believe in the concept.  It may appear to be very hardware centric but my view is that software is a tough market in an open source world and the money lies in the silicon and services that use that silicon.  I realize that there are any companies who could be on the list and when some of the emerging players IPO they could be candidates but this is the beat I can find that you can buy today.  If you want to track this index yourself here are the symbols so you can copy and paste:

AAPL, HON, RAX, AMZN, GOOG, IBM, CSCO, S, AVT, LLTC, MXIM, STM, ATML, TXN, FSL, MCHP, ARMH, TSM

I will update progress every week.  Today was a rough market day (Thursday June 20th) so bear with me on the progress!








Friday, June 7, 2013

Silicon Labs buys Energy Micro, will give them a leg up in IoT

Just noticed that SiLabs bought Energy Micro,  SiLabs is a tier 3 micro supplier (my opinion but data driven) this may put them in tier 2.  Read about it here

There hasn't been much M&A in semiconductors recently so this is exciting.  One less customer for ARM though.  More analysis to come.


Freescale launches Intelligent sensing framework for IoT; looks like an early leader

This week at the monster Computex show in Taiwan, Freescale announced its intelligent sensing framework (also called Xtrinsic link here).  This is category #1 in my framework (sensing and control) and a really smart move by Freescale because among all the silicon players they have the broadest suite of sensors, controllers and free software under one roof for designers to work with.  The company has new leadership (Gregg Lowe, ex TI and Geoff Lees ex NXP) and  looking at this it would appear a more coherent vision of where they want to compete and lead.  Over the last decade Freescale has been hobbled by huge debt and too many products chasing too many markets leaving them masters of few.

Its clear that Microchip, TI, Intel, NXP and Atmel are all chasing the same market so its going to be fun to see who can build the winning ecosystem and largest following because thats how they have to compete today.  Any speculation on who has the winning hand?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What I learned at the Economist Information Forum on Big Data in San Francisco

I was lucky enough to get to my first ever Economist event and must say the progamme (as the Brit's call it) was very strong.  Eric Schmidt was a speaker and that was worth the price of entry alone,  although I would have preferred more Q&A with him.

As I hinted at earlier they got the, is big data real? question out of the way early and its clear from all the speakers and panelists that its very real.  My in depth blog on Monday was on the 2 barriers to IoT and I was hearing some echoes of the "who owns the data" barrier coming up repeatedly.  Michael Flowers from the New York City's mayors office had great examples of how big data is making building inspectors more efficient and might even save lives and more to the point he is the city's Open Data Officer which means there are big data sets out there which will probably always be free.  Eric Schmidt said that whoever can build a big data platform with the potential of a billion users will be the next massive growth company and can be funded instantly.  Any takers out there?  As to the question of the flow of data he thinks it can't simply be solved by a new form of broker, the data platform must add value or analytics in order to be monetizeable.  My take is that just having free global access to data will allow other businesses to monetize it in their own way.  I am going to launch a site called freedataflow.org to track the data opportunities that already exist (I have registered the domain,  hope to get it going soon).

Big Data falls into category 3 of my IoT framework and its received a lot of attention over the last couple of years in the IT world and developments there will actually assist in the adoption of IoT so its worth taking a look at.  Here are some hot topics on big data I picked up:


  1. The ownership and rules for sharing big data is still a huge issue for all of the speakers and a particularly impassioned questioner at one of the sessions.
  2. Adding location to data could be worth another $600 billion a year in transactions to retailers and service businesses which is staggering
  3. Health care could be the killer app (excuse the wording here) in big data since there is so much inefficiency and cost in our current systems.
  4. One big data application example came from Adobe's CIO, she said that now they are a subscription service business they can see what features of software are being used and what needs improvement.  This is real time product development and it could open some huge opportunities for services and quality.


There were many more examples of big data in action brought up but most were very corporate IT focused and the market doesn't seem to be embracing IoT yet.

If you have seen a really innovative or thought provoking big data application please comment below.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blogging from Economist information forum on Big Data

This is the 3rd year of this event and they hit the question "big data is bull$&@" early on. Panelists from Adobe, Intel, Citibank and heck even Campbell's soup gave real examples so it must be real.

Like all new technologies there are victims or in intended consequences and I see many of these coming.

More to come during the day.

Monday, June 3, 2013

2 huge barriers to the adoption of the Internet of Things; lets get them on the table

What is holding back the Internet of Things?  These 2 barriers


This blog is only 3 weeks old but as I immerse myself into all things IoT I’ve noticed the amount of ink and pixels being spilled about the Internet of “X” is simply staggering.  I have time right now to dig into this topic and it’s hard to keep up but I am seeing a trend that isn’t helping the cause and that’s a lack of specificity and rational analysis.  

For example there is a cover story in Wired magazine this month that features a connected and instrumented house, you can read the story here: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/05/internet-of-things

It’s all very cool and thought provoking but lacking in detail.  So let me be more specific; if you read my introductory blog I decided to break the IoT ecosystem into a framework with 8 elements, namely:

1.    Sensing and Control 
2.    Connectivity
3.    Analytics (big data) and the cloud
4.    Security 
5.    Applications, ROI and 2nd/3rd order effect
6.    Standards and Regulation
7.    Ecosystems and Communities
8.    Investment Opportunities

Articles like the one in Wired or John Chambers speech at the Wall Street Journals tech gabfest (AllthingsDigital/D11) last week paint the 25 billion connected devices picture beautifully but what’s stopping it all from becoming reality?  

I have 2 areas of concern that need to be surfaced and addressed.  First I think we have underestimated the connectivity issues (#2 in the framework) and who owns the data (#3).  These issues will inevitably lead to regulatory issues (#6) but that is further down the road.  

The conventional wisdom is that security (#4) is going to be a major challenge but I disagree, we already deal with it on a daily basis, it’s a fact of life in any interconnected system and always has been.

So lets look hard at connectivity and apply some logic and experience to the topic.  Unfortunately telecommunications history teaches us that carriers always fight for control (and profit) when new technologies and applications come along and this stifles innovation.  Going al the way back to POTS (plain old telephone system) carriers around the world fought all attempts by upstarts to access their networks and disrupt their monopolies, I have personal experience with British Telecom and the AT&T/Bell system was equally notorious (think payphones, cellular, T1 lines etc.).  

So how does this apply to the IoT?  Well in order for even basic IoT systems to work we need to connect these billions of devices to the cloud and a carrier controls that connectivity.  We have seen them move painfully slowly on M2M networks with byzantine pricing schemes and bureaucracy so how will it be any different when we start flooding their networks with millions of new IP addresses?  There are some possible alternatives like using “white space” spectrum (check out http://www.neul.com/Or clever reuse of existing Wi-Fi routers which was pioneered in Spain by FON http://corp.fon.com/ but at some point the packet will travel through a carrier and that’s where its going to get complicated and that certainly looks like a barrier to me.  Just mentioning regulation will inflame some people but there is a lot to be said for a certain amount of government intervention when an opportunity as big as this comes along.  Governments who have been enlightened about giving cheap and plentiful Internet access to their citizens have fared very well compared to others that have restricted or ignored it; think Korea and Scandinavia versus the US.  The US is not in the top 10 countries with the fastest or great % of Internet users, which was a shock to me, and I think the carriers have a lot to do with this.  To get a very critical view of how US carriers have held back our internet access check out this interview with Susan Crawford of Yale @scrawford http://billmoyers.com/segment/susan-crawford-on-why-u-s-internet-access-is-slow-costly-and-unfair/

So what can we do about this?  My take is that internet access should be a basic right just like water and power and it should be easy to connect and cheap.  Easy to say but hard to do but we need to agitate for government and/or industry leadership on this or the IoT will happen in other countries first and that will put the US behind in an area where we need to lead.

The second barrier we need to address is the whole question of who owns the data? (That’s #3) These rosy scenario’s of cars, highways, mobile phones, homes and people all throwing off data and letting it be used for the greater good is all very thought provoking but hold on a second; whose data is it anyway?  Who gets to control the data, make money from it, distribute it, store it? Anonymize it? Secure it?  This is even bigger than the connectivity barrier in my view.  This is going to be a whole new battle in information privacy and security that will dwarf earlier debates about Facebook posts and Google searches.  The potential pitfalls of data ownership are already beginning to surface in this fascinating case of Verizon using phone data from attendees at a Phoenix Sun’s game to sell highly targeted real time advertising.  You can opt out but few people are even aware of what is happening to their data and it reinforces my point above in that Verizon wants to use that data to make money not share it. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323463704578497153556847658.html

On this point I do have a modest proposal to solve the issue and that’s to create a non-profit entity to hold and distribute the data a little but like the way ICANN (http://www.icann.org/)
Handles domain names.  This would level the playing field for all the start-ups and creative people out there to develop applications who might otherwise be locked out of the system.  Freedataflow.org or something like that.  Heck I may even volunteer to get it done!

These 2 barriers are real and will hold back IoT until they are addressed so even though they seem large and insurmountable the sheer amount of new revenue streams that can come from new applications (John Chambers says $14 trillion at AllthingsD) will drive the industry to address them.  That’s my hopeful view, what’s yours?  Please comment below.









Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A good source for all the crazy IP address data being bandied about and for skeptics take a look at your router's admin screens

One foundation of all the IoT hype (or excitement depending upon your viewpoint) is the huge number of IP addresses that are being connected every day and extrapolating out to 2015 it adds up to billions.  So where does all this data about data come from?  The Gartner's and IDC's have their guesses but perhaps a more reliable source is Cisco and their VNI index. At least Cisco knows (or should) how many IP addresses are being added to those lookup tables.  The great news is that you can download the data that forms the index and customize it for your own needs which is cool.

The data is here:  http://www.cisco.com/en/US/netsol/ns827/networking_solutions_sub_solution.html

If you are a skeptic I suggest you take a look at the admin screens on your home wireless router and count the number of IP addresses that connect to it on a regular basis,   you may be surprised, I was.

My NetGear home router sees 17 IP addresses on a regular basis, that's laptops, iPhones, an iPad, a Tivo, 2 printers, a Twine and an outdoor weather station.  How many do you have?


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 25 is Geek Pride day! who knew?

Did you know that May 25 is Geek Pride day?  I didn't but here's a nice infographic on Geek history  since 1832 and note the 24 billion connected devices (had to have #IoT in there somewhere).

Nice work by @sylviebarak

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Does the internet of things need a big data exchange to thrive?

Its less than a day since I published (love that anachronistic word!) my first IoT blog I got a few tweets and comments back that sparked a thought.  For the IoT to thrive deliver on its promise it needs fuel and that fuel is data but where is it and who owns it?  Dennis Brophy @dennisbrophy responded that the IEEE has IoT standards underway and the next one might be in Silicon Valley in the fall (sign me up!) but it seems to me that we will need a real time data exchange very soon.  This exchange should be able to deliver real time anonymous (and I stress anonymous) data to developers who can build applications on top of it.   The IEEE or ACM would be the logical bodies to run the exchange but it could also be a new global association.  If a developer can access real time weather, traffic, parking, likes, checkin's, tweets, crime, buses, farming and video streaming data can you imagine the new products they could invent? 

In my 8 elements of IoT framework we are talking numbers 3, 5 and 6 here:


  1. Sensing and Control
  2. Connectivity
  3. Analytics (big data) and the cloud
  4. Security 
  5. Applications, ROI and 2nd/3rd order effect
  6. Standards and Regulation
  7. Ecosystems and Communities
  8. Investment Opportunities
Should there be an IoT utility who distributes the data for those who can pay?  what do you think?

My first weekly blog on the Internet of Things phenomena (or is it a movement?)

This is my weekly blog on the Internet of Things (#IoT) and everything it might mean for those of us in tech.  The definition of what IoT is and what its impact will be is fuzzy to say the least.   Intel calls it "Intelligent Systems" IBM coined "Smarter Planet" and not to be left out Cisco went for "Internet of Everything or IoE".  So why should you care?  why do I care?  Well I was a skeptic for a while but in my career I have seen broad technology shifts that have been profound such as the PC, mobile, open source, social and I now believe connecting billions of devices to the cloud with big data analytics is just as big a game changer as these others.  Understanding how its going to work and what the challenges are is the subject of this blog and its as much my my own benefit as readers but hope we can learn together.  Every week I will gather relevant content and links along with my own thoughts and provocations.  Please feel free to comment and add your opinion,  a few shout outs and Tweets/LinkedIn's wouldn't hurt either!

For a wikipedia definition you can go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things and a great tidbit is that it was coined in 1999 as part of the wave of optimism around the RFID industry which has never delivered on its promise (Walmart lack of implementation dampened its potential).  In order to understand what it is today I am going to boil it down to these 8 elements:

  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 as I see them
This week I picked up on a few notable launches and deals that we should watch:

Under sensing and control the Italian #Arduino team launched a simple, inexpensive ($69) Cloud add-on board and they did it in high style at the Maker Faire in San Mateo last weekend.  Also in control the Norwegian upstart ARM microcontroller company Energy Micro pushed out their "Wonder Gecko" ARM Cortex-M4 product.  Energy has added Alf-Egil Bogen @alfbogen (the "A" in Atmel AVR) to their team and for a small company they are pioneering low power even for an ARM vendor.

In analytics and software it was great to see the ARM @mbedmicro platform (ably steered by Simon Ford) still making waves with an interesting announcement on IoT software with LogMein Inc.  To me this is one of the key weak links in IoT and thats the software transport layer.  One to watch and possibly an investment opportunity.

Each week I will dig around for whats important and pass it on. Hope to get better graphics, a few interviews and if I can pul it off maybe a podcast.  Please ping me with any feedback and stay in touch at dcblaza@gmail.com  or tweet me @dblaza.