2016: The Year that Wasn’t for the IoT

As we prepare to say goodbye to another calendar year, I am regularly asked about where I think the IoT is going in the next year.  Last year, we provided our top predictions for 2016 and this year, I plan to do the same – but with a little twist.  I also want to explore some of the predictions that may not have come true.  Looking back at the original blog, I do believe the things we called did in fact happen.  But there were certainly other predictions discussed as an industry that might need a little more time to become reality.  So let’s start there.

Standards Would Emerge to Move the IoT Quickly Forward

While I am a firm believer that 2016 was a great year for the IoT, many of us thought that we’d see much more standardization than we did.  Standards are important for a lot of reasons – security, interoperability and even long term sustainability.  The promise of the IoT is that everything will be connected.  For example, your smart thermostat knows that you have left the house and tells the lights to turn off.  As such, no one wants to buy a product that only works with only one or a small handful of other IoT products – they want products that can be universal.  That will work with products on the market now and anything new and innovative that will hit store shelves in the future.  Standards will be necessary to move the IoT to the mainstream.  Additionally, they also help move projects forward quicker as companies don’t need to spend time determining the best way to approach product development.

More Clarity in the IoT Landscape

One of the biggest challenges plaguing the IoT today is the complexity of the current landscape.  All vendors that offer IoT solutions today are simply lumped into one singular, messy category.  We are definitely making headway in clearing up the confusion.  Specialties are starting to emerge which is encouraging.  For example, GE is staking their claim as a leader in Industrial IoT, AWS and Microsoft Azure creating tool kits of IoT pieces that can be used to develop a custom solution and with Xively, LogMeIn is focused on IoT Connected Product Management.  Unfortunately, there is still work to be done to make all aspects of the IoT journey easier – hardware, security, analytics, etc. and a standardized architecture has not been fleshed out.  For companies that are new to the IoT and are looking at this landscape, it is still entirely too confusing.

Many thought that consolidation would help the confusion – cool new start-ups would be scooped up by bigger companies and only a handful of leading options would remain.  That still has not happen as much of the development work in the IoT ecosystem has seemed to enable IoT solution providers, rather than enabling actual IoT applications and use cases.

Successful Business Models Will Lead by Example

While there are a lot of super successful examples of IoT products, business models have varied wildly from company to company and across verticals.  There hasn’t been one tried and true and repeatable use case (better service, recurring revenue, product differentiation) that companies know will definitely make more money participating in the IoT.  The sense of risk is definitely lower than it was in years past, but being able follow the successes of other companies lessens the risk that much more. However as research we have conducted shows, there is often unexpected value created by getting a connected product into market.

So while these particular predictions didn’t see full realization in 2016, there was definitely movement across the board. One prediction we made was that 2016 would be the year the IoT moves from the exploration phase to the execution phase and I believe that was in fact true.  The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show was a really good example of that.  Thousands of product companies brought new connected products to market proving that many companies are actually fulfilling their initial IoT plans.  On the Xively front, we saw many of our customers’ products hit store shelves this year and are seeing many more customers looking for guidance on how to get their connected businesses up and running.   2016 was a year of great maturity for the IoT and while we still have work to do, I am confident 2017 will only build on this momentum.

Check back for my 2017 predictions.

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