For nearly a decade industry analysts and technology enthusiasts have been discussing IoT and the art of the possible. Early on it seemed like a pipe dream or a luxury only the rich could afford- with the physical world around you reacting to your unique needs and preferences to provide a contextual, relevant and a very targeted experience. That all began to change over the past 3-4 years as hardware became more affordable, wireless connectivity ubiquitous, and applications available across various industries. It also finally started becoming main stream as the big boys i.e. google, apple, intel, Samsung, IBM etc. have all started making significant bets in this space. In the past 6-12 months multi-million and in some cases multi-billion dollar acquisitions or partnerships have been announced. Google has just under $60BN and Apple a formidable $160BN of cash sitting in the bank. That’s a sizeable war chest to be used for acquisition and growth in industry verticals they truly believe in!
Anyone following the market would be quick to realize how bullish google is in this space. Over the last few months alone they have invested ~$4BN in acquisitions in the IoT ecosystem- Boston Dynamics, Nest, DeepMind, Dropcam on top of seven small to mid-sized robotic companies!!!! Not to forget their investment in Google’s futuristic X lab – which has a plethora of IoT Platforms(Glass, Driverless car) and the omnipresent android OS which is going to be powering half, if not more, of the IoT devices in the long run!!!! It’s one home run after another. The barriers to entry they are creating are mind numbing – from the consumer hardware space to focussed application platforms (Glass in the B2B space as an example), to Manufacturing plants, Killer IoT Solutions and finally the OS space. I would probably give my right arm (and possibly even other parts of my anatomy) just to be in the room with Larry Page & Co. as they discuss their IoT acquisition/expansion strategy.
Apple on the other hand has a world domination strategy, more in line with their past escapades. Rather than dish out billions to grow inorganically- they have recently announced Homekit, Healthkit, Carplay and iBeacon plays. HomeKit is a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home. At the outset it doesn’t seem like a novel idea in home automation, as present manufacturers (Belkin, Insteon, Lutron, etc.) have all been vying to be the “central home automation platform”. However, the critical mass of Apple products currently in use (800-900MN) and the smart developer community awaiting a standardized API kit and certified device program will provide the company a MASSIVE advantage!
Healthkit on the other hand is a framework used to store, retrieve, manipulate and present health info on apps. It helps giving the user a dashboard view of their health status by aggregating data across multiple devices and platforms. With over $9,000/person/year being spent on healthcare in the US –it is a perfect vertical to cause disruption or provide help in making sense of all the chaotic programs in place. From a consumer’s perspective Healthkit is exactly what the doctor ordered, so to speak.
Then you have the other lesser known enablers such as PTC- who first acquired ThingWorx ($120MN) and then subsequently Axeda ($170MN) for the Application Management Platform. Everyone wants a piece of the pie!!!
Clearly, most companies are realizing that IoT is poised to become a key driver of their financial and technological growth for the next few decades and are trying to position themselves best to unlock its hidden value. The race has just begun and the verdict is still out but clearly we have a few front-runners most likely to dominate the marketplace. I as a end-consumer couldn’t be happier; as I truly believe that the use cases for IoT are only limited by our imagination…and we are just beginning to realize the “art of the possible“!