Opening Up IoT Opportunities to Everyone

We need to challenge the Internet of Things ecosystem to innovate as much on creating business opportunities as on creating technology opportunities.
By Sunder Singh
Jan 12, 2016

With every new technology revolution, fortunes are waiting to be made. Who gets the early pickings? Usually, it's the large companies that can afford the major upfront investments (and financial losses) of creating businesses in untested spaces. Or, it's startups that solve problems for those early players—think Levis for 19th-century gold rush prospectors.

Who doesn't get to play? Pretty much everyone else, who must wait for the new industry to mature so that risk is lessened, customers are clearly defined and the return on investment (ROI) is easily determined.

The problem this creates for any evolving market is that a relative handful of companies create tough-to-overcome barriers to entry. Think Amazon, Microsoft and IBM in the nascent cloud services industry of a few years ago—they are still dominant forces today. The second issue is that technology standards develop around the interests of these first-movers, giving them the structural advantage to sustain their market leadership.

So look around at the Internet of Things landscape today. The big investments (and some profits) are being made by deep-pocketed technology and communications companies, including the aforementioned three and other behemoths, such as Google, Intel, Cisco and General Electric. Cases in point: IBM's October 2015 announcement that it intends to acquire The Weather Company's data assets in a deal estimated by the Wall Street Journal at $2 billion, or Google buying Nest, the digital thermostat and smoke-detector maker, for $3.2 billion.

In the startup world, venture-capitalist investments are starting to flow, with big money being pushed toward infrastructure providers that will build out the technical foundation of the Internet of Things. But what about the rest of the companies that are ready to innovate but can't get a seat at the IoT table?

In the interest of full disclosure, my firm, Tata Consultancy Services' Oracle practice, had an idea about this opportunity and recently co-launched with Oracle our answer to solve it: a white-labeled solution enabling communications companies and other enterprises to deliver IoT services to their customers. A communications service provider (CSP), for example, could use one of our offerings to jump into a range of IoT-based markets, from remote health monitoring services to fleet management.

Other businesses are starting to address this market need as well. On October 30, Verizon announced ThingSpace, development kits that allow application developers, small and large, to add new information sources to IoT networks—technical challenges that were once costly and time-consuming to overcome.

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