In 2015, the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) launched a first-of-its-kind cross-disciplinary effort to bring together leaders from the technology industry and academia, as well as consumers and civic leaders to collaborate towards driving the growth and use of internet of things technologies in the Midwest. The result of this effort was the creation of the ITA IoT Council. Its purpose is to drive the advancement of IoT technology, policy and industry, establishing Chicago and the Midwest as an epicenter of IoT.
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For tech communities outside of Silicon Valley, there is often a lot of talk about how to be “the next Silicon Valley.” The thought being that all the talent and capital flows in that direction. At the ITA, we firmly believe that Chicago and the Midwest don’t need to be “the next” anything. There are many things about Chicago that make it a distinctive tech hub: our proximity to many Fortune 500 companies and our depth in B2B technology are just two of our exceptional strengths. These two advantages, along with a few other traits inherent to the Midwest, are also helping to drive our prominence in IoT.
Key factors in Midwest IoT development
At the ITA, we firmly believe the Midwest is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in IoT, more so than any other significant platform shift of the past 20 years. Here’s why:
- Manufacturing. The Midwest is the core of the nation’s manufacturing base, which is making a comeback. The efforts of UILabs DMDII are based on the belief that digital technologies will minimize the cost discrepancy versus countries with cheap labor costs. IoT will require manufacturing prowess to build the devices that are necessary to enable this shift.
- Software. Chicago has a keen history in software development, especially in transformative industries. Chicago is the intellectual base of software centered on solving business problems — a necessary ingredient for a leadership position in this space.
- Data analytics. No community has seen a stronger aggregation of data analytics companies over the past 30 years. From SPPS to IRI and many in between, Chicago is home to both the collection of data and the analysis of it. Fast rising, Uptake is a prime example of how Chicago’s past in this space is pushing it into the future.
- Customers. Chicago has an active consumer base in the industrial, healthcare, retail, automotive and agricultural industries, all of which have been working in M2M technology, the precursor to the internet of things, for many years. As we implement IoT, much of the early adoption will be launched by Chicago companies.
- Government Commitment. The City of Chicago is emerging as a clear leader in the smart city space. Currently, the city is focused on using technology and data to make it as efficient and responsive as possible to resident and business needs.
The ITA IoT Council regularly publishes an inventory of Midwest-based companies centered on IoT to benchmark growth within the region. In its first year, the inventory has grown from 70 companies to 90, showcasing the breadth and depth of IoT in Chicago and the Midwest.
As the companies focused on IoT technology continue to grow, the application of IoT throughout a wide range of industries will grow exponentially. With Chicago’s broad economic base and the city’s commitment to being at the forefront of data and analytics, Illinois and the Midwest as a whole are in a unique position to be a leader in the internet of things transformation.
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