Few three letters are presently generating more excitement in the consumer electronics and enterprise software world than IoT. However, as with most emerging technologies, the introduction of IoT into existing or new businesses has made new challenges apparent. As a result, many software vendors have risen to address these challenges by focusing on providing IoT solutions and platforms. But is IoT becoming a channel instead of a business necessity?
The more things change…
The IoT evolution has many similarities to the same cycles observed in mobile. For example, a diverse and complex ecosystem was created with disruption of the iPhone, especially with the first mobile app store. This pattern continually repeats with new technologies.
I break a technology lifecycle into several specific points — similar to the Gartner Hype Cycle. The key milestones are indicators of technology maturity and, unfortunately, obsolescence — or at least being deemphasized.
- Demand: Solving a broader issue created by a disruptive technology
- Ecosystem: Consisting of point solutions focused on a singular problem
- Platforms: Consolidation of the ecosystems into platforms which address many functions across a disruptive technology
(At this phase, the larger enterprises typically begin to latch on to the products and services.)
- Features: These platforms become features within broader offerings; although the belief is that computing is changing, the reality is that a new channel or channels are being created
- Irrelevance: The end state, when entire markets are absorbed by others and lose relevance
There are some basic fundamentals which exist regardless of how technology is consumed. I’m going to use the term “application” to generally mean code which serves the need of users. Applications have inputs and outputs. They may take new inputs, such as data, and process it via a platform; analyze existing stored data; or perform some other function. If the user engages via traditional computing interfaces, web interfaces, mobile interfaces, voice, or virtual or augmented reality, the application is a set of interfaces for the user (or interfacing with another application) and should be a set of APIs on the back-end. APIs allow for any new computing models to be incorporated easily via the APIs. The API remains ever present and ever relevant.
In a similar manner, the application needs data. Data is stored, but often further collection and analysis are required. That data can come from many sources, and must be collected, stored and retrieved for distillation, and have algorithms applied to it. For the most part, these patterns are common regardless of where the data originates.
We continually see a new technology and repeat the same mistakes, which ends up with the same results.
We are in the middle of this cycle with IoT, while mobile has now passed off the edge. We’ve seen significant less-than-successful investments in mobile platforms. For example, Facebook’s Parse mobile, and its subsequent shutdown. Similarly, Twitter just announced it was “selling” the Fabric mobile platform to Google. What led to its lack of success? The reality is that these platforms become just a single channel and not core to the business.
More examples include technologies such as MDM, which was once one of the most highly demanded technologies. VMware bought market leader Airwatch for over $1.5 billion. But it’s since become quite commoditized and less relevant to buyers than it once was. Even before the MDM was the ESB trend, which was once again replaced by much lighter-weight open source messaging technologies.
…The more they stay the same
As computing interfaces march on — most likely towards augmented and virtual reality, personal assistants, and integration of AI into these models — we’ll once again see a shift occurring. IoT as a channel will certainly play a critical role in the ecosystem moving forward, as measuring our world and other worlds and collecting countless amounts of data are keys to integrating the digital and physical universes.
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