The Fascinating world of Blockchain!

Sachin Mahajan, MobileLIVE

In the early 1900’s if Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Essentially, proving the point that the consumer doesn’t really know what transformatory customer experiences could be! Secondly, people care little about the technology powering these very iconic experiences.. However, the markets do- evident by the ballooning value of bitcoins, hitting a record high post Trump’s election to the White House. The point being- wall or no wall, money has to be remitted across the border and people will find alternative and efficient ways (Bitcoins), when the traditional routes are blocked or taxed.

Before jumping into the nitty gritties of blockchain, let’s ensure we are all on the same page.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is the brainchild of a group of people (or a person) that go by the pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto.

  • It is an incorruptible digital ledger of transactions that can be programmed to virtually everything of value.
  • It’s a shared view of the current state of a marketplace, and the history of all transactions that led to that current state. In plain English it would translate to, “If your assets are on a blockchain, no single company or operator can take them away from you”
  • This Shared Ledger can also be described as transactional database.

The key advantages being its robustness, transparency and flexibility over traditional “disparate” ledgers. Blockchain is ideal for applications with the following characteristics: Have multiple writers, Need immutable and traceable history, have a high degree of transparency, Limited trust between participants and are transactional in nature.

The market excitement is surely intense, based on the ~$2B investment pouring in from the entire spectrum of institutions; Amex to Goldman Sachs to Deloitte:

What are Bitcoins?

Its a type of digital currency, created and held electronically. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world. However, bitcoin’s most important characteristic, and the thing that makes it different to conventional money, is that it is decentralized. No single institution controls the bitcoin network; and the transaction history is stored on a shared ledger i.e. blockchain providing the required transparency.

What are other use cases of Blockchain outside bitcoins?

I found it rather fascinating, when a Sr. Analyst recently said to me, “We have an amazing solution in blockchain, we now need to find a problem to solve”.  We had a great discussion following it, and came up with some of the following use cases which were absolute no brainers: Guaranteeing Digital Identity, Recording IoT transactions, Validating health records and land registries.

  • Internet of Things (IoT) payments and traction: shared ledger (blockchain) may allow machine-to-machine authentication and micropayments and continuous traction of transactional activities. An algorithm could be used to broker an arrangement for a room rental as a smart contract, with the smart lock on the front door being provided instructions to open when the renter arrives. Money would be held in escrow by blockchain and funds released on fulfillment of the contract. This dis-intermediates not only digital banking companies but also Airbnb
  • “Proof of provenance” provided by shared ledger can be used by insurance companies as a source of reliable information about the history, reliability and origin of a document, digital good or physical good with digital credentials.
  • Blockchain could also unlock the ability to provide, “Certification of identity attributes and credentials” (e.g. name, address, age, phone number) on shared ledger (blockchain) system which is absolute necessity currently.

Einstein famously once said,”If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” Thanks to blockchain those facts might not be easily swayed anymore!

PS: Views are my own, and not necessarily my employers. Feel free to contact me from my Home Page

Key Issues Plaguing Digital Identity Services

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Sachin Mahajan, (TELUS & MobileLive)

The Internet without high assurance identity services is akin to a house without plumbing and electrical wiring. As we collectively start launching services (Mobile Connect, Identity Verification & others) the hope is we build a strong foundation to allow Digital Banking, IoT and other services to unleash their true potential with a friction-less user experience.

From my perspective here are the top 3 issues with Identity today:

Issue #1: None of the existing products largely address the markets needs

In February of this year, I went to Barcelona to attend MWC, where over 150,000 telecom professionals from around the world congregated. It was the perfect place to discuss the latest developments and trends in Digital Identity & IoT.  I had one evening free to myself, so I decided to walk around the city. Given Barcelona’s reputation, right before I left my hotel room I took all my important identity documents i.e. passport, credit card, driving license and locked them up in my room’s locker….and dually walked out with my prepaid euro chip and pin card. So the point being the things that were important to me were locked up in my room- safe and secure, as they should be but I had no access to them….which is the exact issue or problem with the digital world.

Issue #2: There is an immediate need for a High Assurance or Trustworthy Digital Identity solution

Often done to death, but worth a quick mention is the fact that the terms “digital world” vs “real world” are becoming so intertwined that soon we will be unable to distinguish between them. Terms such as “Away from Keyboard” (AFK) might become more prevalent. Given that I sleep with my cell phone 3 feet away from myself…AFK never really happens, until and unless my device runs out of battery these days.

Issues #3:  We want everyone else to provide their police clearance certificates to prove their identity in the online world but do not want to do the same at their end.

An interesting episode from my life a few months back, highlights the most important issue I believe plagues our digital world. I have a 10 year old niece, and she and I discuss all things important. She along with her friends were setting up a musical concert in the neighborhood and wanted to promote it online. In a bid to engage more people she was contemplating discussing it on 2-3 chat groups, which she thought were relevant. The moment I found out, I told her she had to keep 2 things in mind:

  1. Not to trust people in chat rooms. They could very well be perverts, criminals, frauds, cheaters or who knows what
  2. Giving out real name and contact information was an absolute No No

Here in lies the paradox…we want others to provide all their identity related information, but do not find the web safe enough to share our own….. this is a log jam!

PS: The intent of writing this quick piece is to engage my stakeholders, so please comment and help me better understand your needs.

Digital Identity: Peeling back the onion…..

Sachin Mahajan, (TELUS & MobileLive)

Five months of heading the portfolio and it is becoming glaringly evident that “Digital Identity” has dramatically different affect on people. For a large majority it seems to be the code word for “now the eyes glaze over and I read emails” but every now and then I run into a handful of others whose ears perk up and a warm smile engulfs their face saying, “about time someone did something about it”.

What is Digital Identity?

There are way too many definitions & perceptions about digital identity, which partly is the problem.  For me, it is as simple as “a mechanism for an individual or a business entity to identify themselves on the internet with some level of assurance (trust).”

Some of the others include:

  • Digital Footprint left behind when one surfs the internet

Companies such as Google and Facebook create online profiles of people to provide a focused, relevant and contextual experience. For e.g. if I searched google images for the key word “Jaguar”, I would instantly be shown images of a car whereas my wife would be shown images of the almost extinct Panther species.

  •  Online persona adopted or claimed by an individual.

I came across a company from the UK, whose tag line is, “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting’”.  It is somewhat of a controversial app that updates an individual’s Twitter feed in the same style as they would normally tweet. In essence ones digital persona would continue to live even beyond the grave. A very interesting thought indeed.

  • It comprises of characteristics, or data attributes, such as Username and password, Date of birth, Social security number etc.
  • And a million other BORING definitions

Why should one care about it?

Two simple reasons: Economics and superior quality of experience!

  • Did you know that MasterCard and Visa charge anywhere between 1.5-3.5% of the transaction value in the physical world vis-à-vis 6-9% in the online world!!! The reason for the disparity is as simple as the inability of companies to authenticate people digitally in a secure, reliable & robust manner!
  • Did you know that between Google, Facebook and other online giants, they collectively make an average of $200-250/North American broadband user annually? What that means is that “Digital Identity” has let them unlock $50+ Billion of annual revenue….and growing!
  • Did you know in 2012, the average cost of recovering from identity fraud was upwards of $20,000 with almost 50% people admitting that if their identity was stolen they would not have the means to manage the recovery process

What are the different levels of assurance of digital identity?

The following chart helps provide a framework to begin to better understand and categorize the various levels of assurance & Strength of Authentication across multiple digital channels:

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Source: Consult Hyperion/Telus

Levels of assurance:

  • Level 1 – Little or no confidence in the asserted identity’s validity an example of it would be registration requests on a news website
  • Level 2 – Some confidence in the asserted identity’s validity
  • Level 3 – High confidence in the asserted identity’s validity to enable accessing sensitive personal data online
  • Level 4 – Very high confidence in the asserted identity’s validity. A typical use case would be providing remote access to a law enforcement database

Digital identity is evolving quickly and is becoming a key enabler across multiple portfolios; be it IoT, Security, mobile wallets or e-commerce.  Consumers are being presented with a greater variety of low assurance authentication methods as the competition to become the de facto identity provider among some of the world’s biggest companies is heating up (Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon etc.). On the other hand Telcos(AT&T, TELUS, Vodafone, O2), Banks and Governments are focusing on higher assurance authentication methods, where its imperative to know the identity of the person on the other end (Medical Insurance, Drivers license renewal, Access to medical reports, Registry services etc.)  It clearly is a fascinating space right now and I can’t wait to see how we help it evolve over the next few years!

 


Who among today’s front-runners is most likely to dominate the Consumer IoT ecosystem? (Part 2)

AmazonGoogleApple-300x185Sachin Mahajan, TELUS & MobileLive

Twenty eight months of being immersed in the IoT domain has had me convinced that it is no different than a typical Bollywood potboiler. It has tragedy (Wink’s untimely demise), drama (Apple-Google-Amazon cold war), thrills (Multi-billion dollar acquisitions), romance (Homekit & Weave partner programs) and much much more. I seem to be watching the story unfold from the front row, with popcorn and 3D glasses in tow, and it has been a riot!

Unable to control my euphoria about the big 3 (Google, Apple & Samsung) in the Consumer IoT space, I wrote a blog about them and it had me wax eloquent about their investments, strategy and product development. It was mid-2014, the race had just begun and the verdict was still not out but clearly these three were positioning themselves best to their capabilities. A quick recap of it:

  • Samsung already had tablets, phones (aka remote controls of our lives’) and appliances (washing machines, TV’s, ovens and refrigerators). With the acquisition of SmartThings they were completing their portfolio of products & services and what remained to be done was integrate the experience, UI and make them all talk to each other.
  • Apple had just then announced HomeKit & Healthkit and it seemed obvious that they were doing what they always did best- create a framework for 3rd parties to develop applications. They had a billion paying customers- generally on top of the food chain, with deep pockets and a propensity to spend on anything made or supported by Apple. Their mantra was to do more of the same and it seemed to be working.
  • Google on the other hand seemed to be trying to dig deep through acquisitions (Nest, Dropcam), active product development in its now world-famous XLabs (Glass & Driverless car) and rollout of Google Fibre

nest_weave_yale_linus_cam_thermostat_world_domination_threadSince writing the blog a lot has happened! Google has currently captured pole position by coming at the IoT domain from every possible angle!!! Integration of Nest Thermostat- Protect-Dropcam, introduction of Brillo (IoT OS), Thread (A protocol for peer to peer interaction) and Weave (a common language for all IoT products)…and if that was not enough they went on to acquire Revolv and then commercialize its hub (called On-Hub now). Just ranting off their accomplishments, in the past year, has the Bollywood junkie in me wanting to do cart-wheels, clap in jubilation and whistle with my hands in mouth.  Let me explain why. What this really means is that Google believes that in the long-term in a hub-less house, your Nest thermostat will be the central device connecting to the external world. All IoT devices using Weave, and in essence Thread as the underlying protocol, will talk to each other and act as repeaters with possibly a single application wrapper for the end customer. Not to forget they have also created Brilo (a stripped down version of Android) for developers to use as the OS of their devices and then inadvertently become a part of Google’s ecosystem. Master Stroke!

Apple is playing the long game by ensuring that their Homekit certified partners adhere to stringent security requirements, use a proprietary chip and possibly a different frequency on devices; which really translates to being expensive, adds cycle times to product development & testing and ensures most companies either choose Google or the Apple ecosystem. Google on the other hand has chosen to enable startups to GTM quickly and be a part of it’s tribe, so to speak. There is no right or wrong answer; it’s just different strategies with different intents and different product lifecycles being targeted.

amazon The one glaring omission on my part has been to not really discuss Amazon, so far. To be honest they are taking rapid strides and are leap frogging companies who have been trying to carve out a niche. Their plays, in the sequence of appearance:

  1. Home Automation Section on Amazon.com: When I first saw this, I chuckled to myself, “Was a storefront focused on Home Automation products their IoT play?” Little did I know that they were chuckling too, they hadn’t even gotten started
  2. Launch of Amazon echo: At the heart of it, it is a device that plays music from one’s phone or the cloud. What is unique about the product is the fact that it comes with voice command services and your ability to interact with it. Inherently Microsoft’s Bing powers the intelligence through real-time search functionality. In a nutshell, I love it and so does my 3 year old son. Early in the morning, I find him talking to Alexa, asking “her” to play music! What is even more incredible is that fact that through Alexa, one could now shutdown their Philips Hue light bulbs or other Home Automation partners that Amazon has enable
  3. Amazon-Echo2Amazon acquires 2lemetry: This 4 year old startup, had capabilities to process and analyse high-volume data streams from any number of sources and in real time. The first indication that Amazon was going to come out with something much bigger in the near future
  4. Amazon offers Home Services: Amazon’s professional service play, as it offers installers and support staff to come down to your house and help with installation of home automation products and more
  5. Dash button: An extremely simple concept of having a physical button linked to a purchase of one product from a defined company. Press the button and Amazon would send you an email confirmation, charge your credit card and subsequently ship the product. No questions, no phone calls, no browser based shopping.dash button
  6. The Alexa fund: Investing $100MN in startups to fuel voice technology innovation. Essentially the fund is open to any startup with an innovative idea for how voice technology can improve lives.
  7. Amazon AWS IoT– platform to build, manage and analyze The Internet of Things: AWS IoT is a platform that enables one to connect devices to AWS Services and other devices, secure data and interactions, process and act upon device data, and enable applications to interact with devices even when they are offline.

As you can tell, there is never a dull moment when you have the awesome four-some jostling it out. To add to the drama we now are living through the cold war of them not carrying each other’s products. From Apple discontinuing the Nest line in their retail locations to Amazon doing a stop sell on Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast services. I personally am not sure who is going to be the end-winner of this fast expanding ecosystem- but this larger than life rivalry to out-do each other, rapid product development and commercialization, evolution of multiple protocols, standards and OS’ specifically for IoT can only bode well for the end customer. We are far from reaching utopia where the physical world moves away from just being “smart” or “connected” to developing a conscience and reacts to our unique needs but with these 4 companies pioneering the way has us all collectively head in the right direction!

The Optimal Retail Experience for Consumer IoT Products   

Sachin Mahajan, (TELUS & MobileLive)

             Until and unless you have been hiding under a rock, odds are that you have heard about the fascinating world of IoT and the transformational impact it is going to have on our lives. As more and more consumer companies realize the benefit too, and start offering their connected products & services, they will more often than not have to tackle the question of the optimized retail & channel strategy for an IoT product. Ten years from now, it might not be a relevant question as the underlying premise would be that all devices would be “smart” or “connected”. Quite like a few years back it was common to refer to a mobile device with applications and advanced data features as a “smartphone” -which now has been replaced by just a “phone” as we expect them to be inherently smart.  Similarly all consumer electronic devices, homes & cars would be smart & connected- but until utopia is reached, let’s analyse what companies are currently doing to sell these devices through the retail channel…. and what’s working and what’s not.

Every product has unique marketing and channel needs based on its evolutionary phase on the technological lifecycle.  Looking at where consumer IoT stands today, what really is needed is an effective way to humanize the story or bring it to life through tangible real retail experiences.  Consumers need to see them, touch them and have a compelling desire to own one these fascinating (sometimes overpriced) devices. We need to collectively find a way to help make the leap from B2G (Business to Geek) to a real B2C story and not just having an endless aisle of products with no one to discuss them with!  To better understand how these connected products were being promoted I went mystery shopping on one of my trips to SFO. There was a lot of chatter around Best Buy, Sears & Targets’ concentrated efforts in this space and hence I visited them to make a mental note of the best in class approach.

Best BuyBest Buy has singled out IoT and the Apple watch as the 2 drivers for its success this year. By their own admission, the combination of these two helped fuel consumer demand and resulted in the firm posting expectation-busting numbers last month, which increased the share price by 14%. Full marks to them for giving the “connected category” prime real estate and investing in customer experience. The store I visited, much to my delight, had the “connected section” right at the front of the store but what made the experience so much more meaningful was the fact that they had miniature rooms created which helped visualize the product experience and the art of the possible. The store rep was informative (but not insightful) and looked a little bit out of his depth, although he did a good job with up to date infn on most of the products.

To be honest, the connected ecosystem is quite confusing. The market is overcrowded, products are sold piece meal and there are a plethora of choices on technology- with no clear winner. A lot of people find out the hard way, including yours truly, that they have invested $400-500 in a proprietary technology or a hub which has limited to no interoperability with other expensive goodies.  Where companies could help a lot more is through specialist reps who understand the ecosystem extremely well and can recommend products meeting the customer’s unique needs. That’s where Sears has hit the ball out of the park!

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                I had the opportunity to visit their much hyped San Bruno flagship store, which essentially has 4,000 Sq Ft dedicated section to the connected consumer experience.  As the pictures and this virtual video illustrates they have actually got real estate dedicated to each room of the house with live use cases and products being highlighted. In a way Sears is forcing customers to explore, learn and interact with connected products and see them working in the context of the home. To top it up the customer rep I interacted with clearly understood the complexities of the products showcased – he was extremely helpful and actually suggested alternatives to setup my home automation system with the best in breed (compatible) products at the least cost! Truly a memorable experience!  Hoping to see more wide scale rollout of similar “experience centers” from other retailers.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit Target’s experimental store called “Open House” where not only are they experimenting with some of the most advanced Consumer IoT devices but also new ways of retailing in general. From what I read, they seem to be focussed on helping customers discover new products, getting them to understand what their own unique needs are and also in capturing feedback to optimize the experience! The target store I visited really dint have much to write home about as some of the reps didn’t  know if they had a “connected section”, to begin with. Waiting on David Newman to have a wider rollout of the connected store experience.

In a nutshell, the increasing complexity and interoperability challenges for IoT products are making the Sears/Apples’/Best Buy’s operating model increasingly relevant as customers want and need more help selecting, installing, connecting, integrating, using, maintaining and taking full advantage of their products. These companies have already invested heavily in the real estate and now need to make Customer’s physical experience and education around IoT front & centre of their strategy to ensure they can get back into the game and compete long term with the Amazon’s of the world.

Based on what I just witnessed it seems to be game on!

The Deluge of Wearable Devices!

Sachin Mahajan MobileLive & ex-TELUS 

It wasn’t love at first sight, in fact I hated them! The first set of wearables I laid my eyes on was ~30 years back and I remember gazing into a calculator watch as a 7 year old and thinking to myself that this “transformer like contraption” would never find its way on my wrist! It wasn’t until the hitech eye lens sequence from the MI series and more recently the deluge of IoT wearable devices that the spark has been ignited. From Smart watches, connected pets, activity monitors, wellness devices – the list of smart wearables goes on and on and on.  Some (my wife including) would argue that it is getting a bit much, as I currently own 9 connected wearables and am running out of real estate on my arms to wear anything more! But no one comes remotely close to Chris Dancy, the “most connected human on earth”, who utilizes up to 700 sensors, devices, applications, and services to track, analyze, and optimize many areas of his existence. Apparently he lost over 100lbs within a year, by not just tracking his physical activity but also by using sensors to correlate his calorie intake with the people he was with and the lighting in restaurants around him. By changing these 2 triggers he lost a bucket load of weight!!!

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Analysts are predicting that people like him will help the wearables industry be worth over $30BN by 2020, fueled by the ever growing appetite for these devices. To my simple mind human bodies have been emitting data point for thousands of years, we finally have proliferation of consumers gadgets which allow us  to listen, quantify and take corrective action if need be. Having said that, I still believe we are yet to create the iconic product or experience that would make wearables cross the chasm between “early adopters” and “mass market adoption” globally, although some would argue that the chasm has already been crossed in US/Canada and some parts of Europe!
best-wearable-technology-sachin-mahajan-telus-torontoIf I was an innovator in this super-exciting space today, I would ensure that the focus was on the consumer experience, aesthetics and social acceptance rather than making an engineer’s dream a tangible reality. Google’s recent realignment of the “potentially disruptiveglass program is proof. It is proof that despite having a breakthrough product from the “House of Google” – consumers can be brutal & unforgiving. It might have been better for these products to prove themselves in the enterprise or healthcare space first, which is much further ahead in the technology  adoption life cycle – nudging slowly on the hearts and minds of the end consumer through these socially intrusive wearable concepts. Take the example of using a google headset to convert visuals into audio commentary for the visually impaired- answer to many a million prayers, a truly life changing use case for a device being shunned by the consumer segment today!

All skepticism aside, I love my smartwatch, or the current version of it which is the Fitbit Surge. Having had the Pebble, Moto 360 and almost getting myself the Apple watch- I find myself extremely contended with a sub $300 watch- with 7 day battery life, a great physical activity monitor and a social angle which Apple clearly missed in its first attempt. Sometimes, “less is more” and clearly Fitbit has nailed it! My primary reason for getting the smartwatch was to ensure I did not miss urgent phone calls and text messages, which sadly was the norm due to my work days being packed with back to back meetings.  Secondly, I wanted to have a multi-tenant/purpose device as opposed to have 3 specialty products on me at any point of time. Essentially, what I am finding is that due to the utility of these smartwatches companies such as ”Swatch or Fossil” which truly play in the $200-500 price range are in the line of fire and until and unless they come out with iconic smartwatches their brand value and market demand might plummet rather soon. weaable-health-technology-sachin-mahajan-telus-iot-toronto

For the first time I am witnessing technology being used so effectively to make our life’s simpler: from wearables for babies which let parents know that the diaper is soiled to assisted living products which help the ageing (and prosperous) baby boomers to live independently yet safely…truly “the art of the possible”. 2015 is also being touted as “year zero” for the smart clothing market (Sensoria, OMSignal), with garments moving beyond experimentation and becoming widely available to customers, albeit at a relatively high price point. The line between sublime & ridiculous is also being pushed by certain products-  recently came across a wristband which would “mildly  zap” the individual when a bad habit was indulged in….such as smoking or extensive usage of social media sites or even shopping, for that matter. Evidently it helps train your reptile brain to drop a habit with 5 days of continued “training”, so to speak. These corner cases aside, the take rate of wearables will really depend on the QoE and the value they bring to the users day to day life at an affordable price point. In one case, I had to charge my watch every 6 hours and I soon found that I was happier leaving it at home rather than wearing it all day long, in another it was difficult for me to internally rationalize spending $1000+ on another fancy connected gadget.

In summary, largely thanks to open IoT Platforms and commoditized M2M Sensors the velocity of consumer awareness and demand for wearable technology market is growing way quicker than most people anticipated, including your s truly. The market is dominated by a few key players in the wearable fitness (Apple, Fitbit) and identity space but is surprisingly open to new entrants if they demonstrate functionality & value at an affordable price.  It’s a great time to be around to witness innovation and rapid product development, and whichever connected wearable you chose make sure  you enjoy the evolutionary nature of these devices!!!

The Awesome Twosome: IoT & Big Data

Sachin Mahajan MobileLive & ex-TELUS

Its 2001, Apple is readying up to launch an iconic product & experience revolutionizing the portable music player industry. The product is named unconventionally, as the iPod. Steve Jobs has been intrinsically involved in the design, user experience and even the minutest detail such as the color of the iPod…..to this end they were conducting focus groups to better understand which iPod color might be the primary choice of shoppers, and hence to launch in. Over a period of 2 days and intense discussions later the focus groups came back with the unanimous decision on the color – “Yellow”. The product management team thanked the focus group members for having spent their time and as a gesture of their gratitude asked the participants to pick an iPod, of their choice, on the way out  80% of them chose white!

Data often tells a story which is contrary to what people say….some of the big data analytical tools give us the latitude of looking for patterns rather than making us all anthropologists trying to observe people’s behaviour and try to differentiate between what they say vs what they actually do.  How many of you would have believed that with the launch of the white iPhone, the sales of white cars would have gone up in LA; I wouldn’t have. But apparently- women like to match their colors; again big data would have allowed us to make such predictions.

I stumbled upon the following graph from Gartner, indicating that IoT had recently nudged Big Data from the “Peak of Expectations” into the “trough of disillusionment”. Not sure I completely agree with the chart since one in six (15 %) consumers already use wearable tech today, such as smart watches and fitness bands, making me believe IoT doesn’t fit the mould of Gartner’s previous predictions- where largely  <5% adoption existed well into the “Slope of Enlightenment”. Either way IoT & Big Data have arrived and if we marry the two together- we definitely have a winning proposition.

The value of IoT is definitely in increasing revenue, productivity, efficiency & lowering cost, but often companies forget the value of the data it generates. I see the culmination of big data and IoT fundamentally altering the value proposition to the end customers by providing insightful, relevant and actionable data to influence the decision making paradigm in real time, improve QoE and lastly unlock the hidden value of the same data in parallel verticals.

Let me elaborate, essentially IoT and Big Data are working together in 3 ways:

  1. Finding Big Data trends created by IoT Applications.

 As millions and billions of things get connected to the web, there is going to be a tsunami of information generated over the next few years. From the dawn of time until 2004 – 5 exabytes of information was generated and captured. If you ask how much is that data- it essentially is books stacked from earth all the way to pluto and back 80 times over. In the course of the next decade 500x of data it was created and from 2015-17 it is forecasted to grow by 1500x. The biggest hurdle facing organizations considering IoT deployments will be knowing what to do with the massive amounts of information that is being gathered. One challenge which needs to be overcome is to design for analytics – executing a strategy that sees data more as a supply chain than a warehouse. Another is the ability to marry big data trends with in depth expertise in the vertical being explored.  Analysts believe that organizations which can effectively overcome these two issues will financially outperform their competitors by 20-30%. That is incentive enough for most businesses and hence we see companies such as Mnubo & TIBCO’s  and other IoT Analytics Platform companies’ IP becoming increasingly sort after.

2. IoT Applications and Big Data Complementing each other

An auto sharing company recently started allowing their members to drop the car off in any part of the town and through IoT solutions were able to locate it and in real time let potential customers know where to pick it up and open it using electronic keys. Using big data and predictive analysis they were able to optimize the fleet size and through IoT solutions were able to provide unique services and business models which completely flipped the traditional car rental market on its head. This is just the beginning.

The key to really unlocking these new business models and customer experiences is by managing and using IoT & big data in new ways. Another vertical where we see them come together is the retail sector. A 100 years back when someone walked into a store more often than not the shop keeper knew the customer, their choices, socio-economic status and based on it made recommendations. Fast forward to 2015 and it would be hard to find a service agent in a big box retailer to save your life; let alone talk to you abt a product. Here Big data and Iot is being used to recreate the experience from a 100 years back. Providing customers relevant, targeted and focussed recommendations based on their buying pattern of the last few trips and  using IoT as the last mile. Its essentially the golden “2 second rule” i.e providing the customer the required information to help influence their decision making paradigm in the 2 seconds when they are making it. Beacons help track customers in the aisle and while they stand pondering on the type of noodles they need to buy- in real time based on inventory and promotions a recommendation could be pushed to the end customer’s phone. This is not a pipe dream of the future, some companies are making it a tangible reality in the UK today and have reportedly increased revenue by 30+%! Did someone say, it really was the art of the possible?

3.Running different algorithms on the same data set to create use cases for secondary IoT verticals

In a world where we possibly have north of 4BN sensors (and only 3.5BN toothbrushes), we are being spoilt by the richness of the data available across industries. Often, we find ourselves uncovering insights being driven by the data captured for an entirely different business need to begin with. A key example is the connected car. The connected car experience brings safety, security, diagnostic and infotainment applications to the end customer. Applications such as real time traffic information, streaming music, ability to watch a Netflix movie and so and so forth make the consumer’s commute a lot less taxing and more productive. As the next wave of growth comes through the connected car in the IoT space, companies are also finding different applications for the same data:

  • Insurance companies are tapping into real time parameters such as average speed of vehicle, number of traffic violations, harsh braking, accidents and so and so forth. This information is then being used to price the insurance premium of the clientele.
  • Cities are finding valuable insights by looking at congestion of traffic and health of the roads from the connected car. These data points are being used to reduce travel time through improved traffic congestion planning and more insights for emergency response teams
  • Dealerships now have a better handle on the health of the car and are able to communicate more effectively on why the car needs to be serviced with the ability to provide certainty on cost, time and effort needed to rectify the issue.

Clearly, Big data and IoT are harnessing data and converting regular day to day interactions into transformative consumer experiences and that’s where the value for businesses lie.

Google, Apple, Sasmsung…who among today’s front-runners is most likely to dominate the IoT ecosystem?

Sachin Mahajan TELUS

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!

googlenest                               Dropcam

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.

download                                                     homekit-logo1

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.

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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“!

Connected healthcare and the art of the possible…

Sachin Mahajan, MobileLive & ex-TELUS

In the near future, it wouldn’t be unfathomable to find a paramedic at your doorstep with a fibrillator and preventive medication in anticipation of your heart-attack in 30 mins. With the proliferation of fitness and wellness devices your wearable wristband not only has the capability to track your daily physical activity (footsteps, calories burnt, active minutes, sleep patterns, weight, food intake) but it soon will help keep a tab on vital statistics such as blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate etc. Marrying this rich information with your medical records gives us the magic formula to save lives!

Welcome to Connected Healthcare.

The Internet was originally about connecting people and their digital assets. The Internet of Things (IoT) takes it a step forward by directly connecting these devices to one another. When mission critical data or in this case life-saving information is now shared in real time and preventive actions are triggered; amazing things can be accomplished. From connecting firemen suits with sensors and location trackers ensuring their physical safety & wellness to having smart prescription medical bottles (vitality glowcaps) increasing the efficacy of medication significantly and proportionately their effectiveness- the list of use cases are endless.1 bpfbsmartscale

Being an active proponent of M2M/IoT and a technology enthusiast I wanted to put it to good use and achieve my ever eluding goal of getting fitter! A quick stop at fitbit.com ensured that a smart wristband along with a shiny new wi-fi enabled weighing scale were on their way- adding to it a smoothie breakfast, 2 runs a week and squash once a week I thought I was all set to get fitter. It worked- but not for the obvious reasons.

Tracking weight, bmi, number of steps I took in a day was all great but what really worked for me was the community effect/peer pressure it created. I now had a list of friends on my fitbit application (running on my HTC One device) and we all secretly competed with each other to lead the pack. I now knew when my peer walked 31Kms over the weekend as he sodded his lawn or a friend went to a wedding and danced her heart out! It was game time and I wasn’t going to throw the towel in. Six weeks in, am down 7 lbs and the hunger to be the most physically active on my friend’s list is still burning within. I can’t seem to get enough of it! The growing excitement around Apple’s much anticipated “Smart watch” might very well shorten the lifetime of my smart wristband, but really the possibilities for M2M/IoT in healthcare are limitless.

Health Insurance companies, federal & provincial governments are spending billions of dollars for Medical facilities management, extending clinical access, assisted living and caregiver programs- it’s turning out to be a no brainer to also spend on IoT sensors and Connected platforms to increase efficiency, improve productivity, lower costs and make healthcare more accessible to patients in need. We are just beginning to scratch the surface on the “art of the possible” with M2M and one day we hope that these tiny sensors will be disrupting most legacy industries and at the same time improving efficiency and productivity.

Connected Home: Art of the Possible

Home

Sachin Mahajan, TELUS

I have a connected light bulb in my living room. Whenever India plays a cricket match, it turns blue, telling me to switch on the TV and kick back. If I wanted to, I could have the bulb flick on and off a couple of times every time somebody tags me in a photo on Facebook, or BuzzFeed uploads a new article on technology that interests me. I’m also thinking about buying a IoT enabled or connected lock for my front door. It would send me a text message when somebody knocks on the door, so I’d know about it even if I was on the other side of the world. Thanks to a small video camera at the door, I could use my smartphone to see who it is, and to unlock the door if I wanted to let the visitor in. I can do all of this thanks to Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology and an industry  of really cool apps that’s growing by the day.

Home security

IoT enabled home security solutions have been around for a while. You can have a system installed professionally, or you can do it yourself. Cameras can be activated by motion, sending images to your smartphone or tablet so you know what’s happening inside your home. You can be alerted if something unexpected takes place, and you can check visitors at the door. It’s up to you how much you are able to control. You can even extend it to personal security inside the home, say for seniors. There’s an app that will alert you on your smartphone if your 80 year old parent has fallen, or if there’s been no activity in their home for the last 18 hours.

Automation

This is where the really cool innovation is happening. Take the connected lock I described above and imagine how realtors could use it. Today, many realtors still hang a dropbox with a key in it on the front door of a house they’re selling. Often, they use the same combination for all their dropboxes. That could be a security nightmare. But with connected locks, realtors could simply use their smartphones to check every prospective purchaser at the door and decide whether or not to open up to them.

Energy management

There’s already a plethora of devices that can do amazing things. For example, there’s the Google Nest. It’s only about $250 and you can easily install it yourself. It learns your patterns and preferences and automates them, controlling the furnace or air conditioning just the way you like it, and saving you as much as 20% on your energy bill. I paid over $700 for electricity last year, I could have saved $140! The great thing about the Nest is that it also understands hand gestures. So if you’re cooking something that you know is going to be smoky, you can wave your hand and Nest will switch off your smoke detector for the next 20 minutes.

What’s next for the connected home?

You wake up in the morning and put on your slim biometric bracelet. It identifies you by your heartbeat, which is as unique as your fingerprints so nobody else can pretend to be you. Your thermostat registers that you’re awake and quickly adjusts the temperature to your preference. You go through your morning routines and prepare to leave for work. The front door unlocks as you approach it and locks itself behind you. You walk up to your car and unlock it with a wave of your hand. Along the way, you stop for a coffee, wave your bracelet over the cash register and the cost of your latte is debited directly from your bank account. At the office, your desk lamp switches on when you enter and your computer boots up and logs you in. You finish early because you’re leaving on a business trip, wave your arm again and everything switches off.  Later, at your hotel, you wave your arm at the TV set and it starts up, ready to resume the Netflix show you were watching the night before, at the exact spot you stopped it. Actually, this isn’t a prediction of something that may happen sometime in the future. The technology for everything I’ve described here is available right now . And it’s all thanks to the magic of M2M. I think you can see from all this that M2M really is the “art of the possible“. That’s why TELUS is putting so much emphasis on it, working with partners who are turning science fiction into reality, today.