High costs, maintenance issues and COVID-related shipping delays have caused some disappointing interruptions in the anticipated boon of the IoT universe.
As a tech entrepreneur for over 30 years, Steve Jennis witnessed the whole evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), and for it to be successful on a massive scale, he said every computer on the system must have the same level ofunderstanding.
“Analysts thought trillions of devices would be connected by 2015 and startups would become the new Microsoft,” Jennis said. “My personal disappointment is that it never reached the heights of ability expected because it never reachedmass adoption.”
He said it’s the cost of scalability. For every machine, it costs a lot of time, money and maintenance to make sure it’s properly synchronized and communicating with every other machine on the network on their own, because in true IoT,human interaction is not a component.
IoT Sees Slow Progress
With experience in both high-tech start-up ventures and well-established organizations, including PrismTech and Texas Instruments, Jennis eventually started his own agency, Jennis Consulting Group and co-founded a separate mentoringconsultancy for new start-ups called Founders Compass. While serving as the executive director for PrismTech in 2014, CMSWire named Jennis one ofthe "IoT Top 10 Movers and Shakers."
But while Jennis said the IoT hasn’t yet reached its level of promise, it did achieve a level of progress.
Vince Bradley, CEO of Abundant IoT, is excited about that progress and believes the unfulfilled expectations in the IoT are more about the pandemicaffecting the supply chain and exacerbating the journey.
In April, Abundant IoT, a global provider of IoT-focused technology, won Best in Show for Best Product at the 2022 Channel Partners Conference & Expo for its EnergyHub app, which allows remote property management and identifiesalgorithms and analytics.
“I would agree that it is certainly a journey we are all on and that it is going to take a lot of time before we see true, pure IoT,” Bradley said. “The pandemic totally slowed down the proliferation of IoT devices and deployment.Related supply chain issues have been another blocker to the IoT journey.”
But there are new innovations, and he believes the most exciting shift in IoT innovation is the integration of blockchain technology.
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Blockchain’s Role in IoT
Blockchain companies like Helium offer a blockchain network using a decentralized system of global hotspots.
“Introducing Helium to the technology sales channel is why our company won Best in Show this April,” Bradley said. “Operating on a blockchain foundation, the low cost and the long range, low power LoRaWAN technology that Helium hasbuilt their network on is the most exciting thing happening in the IoT.”
He believes the retail industry can benefit by utilizing a blockchain network in many ways.
“Multi-location retail chains can actually deploy a low-cost gateway at each location called a hotspot,” Bradley said. “That hotspot essentially makes the location a physical node on the Helium network which guarantees reliable,low-cost transmission of their data from the IoT sensors at that location.”
He believes reducing the reliance on high-cost, big-carrier wireless networks for IoT data transmission will dramatically decrease the cost of deploying sensors. This cost reduction will assist retailers who can then afford to deploymore sensors, enabling them to utilize a myriad of customer and revenue-enhancing functions.
“We are already seeing true pure IoT in many areas, and that motion will continue and accelerate so that the masses are tapping IoT,” Bradley said. “The total addressable market in IoT is going to triple in the next few years.”
According to Statista, there will be more than 29 billion IoTdevices worldwide in 2030, almost three times the 9.7 billion in 2020.
How Is IoT Connecting Customers Today?
Bradley said IoT is now connecting the physical world to the digital world in ways only limited by imagination — and these connections result in an easier and less expensive customer experience.
A few examples he cited include:
Lockboxes on rental units now have sensors that enable the owners to program a new combination for each client, eliminating the process of physically picking up keys. The owners can also deploy cameras for security. Water, A/C and heatcan be controlled remotely.
Commercial Real Estate Owner-Operators
A single building owner can improve its maintenance costs and tenant experience by implementing sensors in elevators, offices, HVAC systems, water systems, lighting, security and many other building systems. These sensors detect andalert owners of conditions that optimize their customers’ experiences.
The Poultry Industry
Poultry farmers can improve the health of their birds through better controls in climate, feeding, cleanliness, humidity and light.
Some local governments now require humane rodent control in commercial establishments. That means no more snap traps and no more starvation or dehydration of the critter.
When non-snap traps capture the critter, a human inspection reveals that an animal is in it. IoT sensor-enabled traps now speed up this process, alerting property owners about which traps they need to visit.
These are the anonymous round covers you might see on the ground, below which is a pump for removing standing water from heavy rain. They exist everywhere and help keep communities from being flooded.
No one knows when a pump fails until the water becomes a problem. A simple sensor on the pump can alert management of pump malfunction or inoperation, allowing the deployment of a technician to return it to service. As a result, tenantsin homes nearby are no longer subjected to periodic flooding of their basements and yards.
HVAC System at an Office Building
IoT sensors can detect when an HVAC system is experiencing mechanical issues before the system fails.
Let’s say the bearings on the air handler fans have worn out, but the fans are still rotating. The sensor can detect the out-of-band vibrations of the fans and alert the building owner that they need servicing before they fail. So,tenants don’t experience a hot or freezing office and are blissfully unaware that the system ever had an issue.
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The Key to IoT? Sensors
“IoT can dramatically enhance the ability to see what is happening to remote physical ‘things’ from a dashboard and eliminate costly manual human intervention or inspection at remote locations,” Bradley said. “Sensors can monitor andalert for non-business hours of operations for all sort of things that can go wrong.”
He used the example of a restaurant with a walk-in refrigerator. A power outage occurs during the night, and the food in that fridge reaches a temperature higher than the law or safe consumption allows. But the fridge is back to anormal temperature by the time the restaurant opens, and no one realizes the food is in jeopardy.
With a sensor system using IoT technology, however, the issue gets automatically corrected. Customers eat without getting sick, and the restaurant profits by delivering safe and tasty food.
The advance of the IoT has also created an opportunity for specialized tech in IoT operations (IoTOps), a growing field of expert teams offering services that include the installation, service, operation, security and predictivemaintenance of IoT systems.
At the heart of IoT, sensors play a crucial role. Miles Flamenbaum, CEO of Actasys Inc., would like to see the term “sensorfication,” which hedefined as “the increasing use of sensors across a range of industries and applications,” officially recognized by Dictionary.com.
Rain, mud and other harsh conditions can impair and even disable the sensors in robots, security cameras and vehicles. In autonomous vehicles, this can threaten both safety and commercial protentional.
Actasys Inc., a New York start-up that received $5 million in seed funding from Volvo Cars Tech Fund and NextGear Ventures, has offered up a solution for this issue: a sensor cleaning system that can clear the surface of the sensor lenswhile remaining compact, cost efficient and effective.
The product, ActaJet Sensor Cleaning, was recognized as a Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2022 Innovation Award Honoree by the Consumer Technology Association.
IoT Set to Accelerate Beyond 2022
Research conducted byMcKinsey & Companyestimates that by 2030, the IoT could enable $5.5 trillion to $12.6 trillion in value globally.
Their report,The Internet of Things: Catching up to an accelerating opportunity, found that profits from IoT in the home setting grew at a faster pace than initially expected and they predict a similar increase in offices and at work sites.
However, IoT is creating value slower than expected in other sectors, including factories, retail environment and vehicles. But McKinsey indicates that the value potential is there, with IoT in vehicles expected to create an economicimpact between $0.4 and $0.6 trillion by 2030.
Still, researchers cite there are major issues to overcome, including the cost of technology, security concerns and interoperability, resulting in what they refer to as “pilot purgatory” in which “70 percent of manufacturers have beenunable to scale beyond pilots.”
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The Challenges Ahead for IoT
According to Steve Jennis, progress is slow because humans are smart. And tech? Well — not so much.
Humans understand language, interpret that language and reply in a way people can understand. They are constantly evolving. In the IoT, computers must be able to do the same — machine to machine.
“In the 90s, it was about the internet of people, and the assumption back in the day was that eventually, machines would start talking to each other and of course, things do talk to each other without our involvement,” Jennis said.
“With a lot of work, you can make it happen in certain cases, but it’s expensive to get the result you want. Those cases delivered a lot of value but cost a lot of money. Managing, setting them up, getting them synchronized and keepingthem up to date is a challenge. It’s time-consuming and a maintenance nightmare.”
Because of this, Jennis said the tech hasn’t made it to the general consumer as low-cost ubiquitous tech. Instead, it tends to be employed in high-cost systems.
“What holds the Internet of Things back from being more important than the internet of people is the ability for things to communicate together contextually in the same language. When machines talk to machines it’s difficult gettingthat level of understanding between them, particularly if they are from different manufacturers.”
He pointed out that Apple has an easier time because everyone is using it. However, in the world, that is not the case. Across the globe, there are millions of different vendors with millions of different manufacturers.
“People did not get this in the early years of IoT, so the first ten years it’s been a bit of disappointment,” Jennis said. “Getting devices or things smart enough to communicate effectively is difficult. Just like people, if you are inthe same family — it’s easier — but outside the family it can be challenging.”
Things talking to things is not new, but the key according to Jennis, is getting then to do it at low effort or low cost.
“It’s a little chicken and egg. Economies of scale are required to lower prices, but lower prices are required to support wide-scale deployment. As such, the IoT projects funded today represent a small percentage of the potentialprojects because they are expensive and thus must promise large returns,” Jennis said.
“The IoT will only boom at much lower prices, which will be driven by new devices that plug and play without integration costs. This will slowly happen over many years; single vendor solutions will lead the way, but multivendorsolutions are maybe another decade away.”