Spending on IoT Expected to Grow to $520B

According to a new report from consulting firm Bain & Co, big companies plan to double their annual spending on smart, Internet-connected devices like video surveillance cameras and industrial sensors by 2021 to an annual total of $520 billion from $235 billion spent in 2017.

In its previous 2016 survey about IoT spend, Bain projected $450 billion for 2020 which included purchases of devices, software, and related services.  The higher forecast shows businesses are increasing their appetite for connected devices alongside  growing consumer demand  for everything “smart” in their homes including cameras, thermostats, speakers and connected light bulbs.

Connected video surveillance cameras and sensors that measure throughput or alert when parts are wearing out, usually send their information to the cloud for analysis. But newer products are moving the smarts to the edge – meaning that the products themselves will have more powerful compute engines and AI algorithms built-in, making them more independent and cost effective to operate – thus boosting sales.

Not surprisingly, Bain found that not all connected devices have caught on as much as previously expected – primarily due to security concerns, complex integration paths and uncertain ROIs.  Many companies hoped that collecting extensive data about their equipment would help with predictive maintenance, reducing costs and streamlining operations.  That has been harder to prove-out.

In one example, Bain pointed to elevator manufacturer Schindler working with GE  to collect sensor data from 60,000 elevators. But a lack of historical data and problems integrating different data formats made predicting maintenance needs difficult which has caused  interest in predictive maintenance use cases to wane.

Interest in remote monitoring, on the other hand, has risen because it tends to be a standalone application with clear customer benefits.  

As Bain notes, “the next few years will be critical to the development of IoT markets as leaders continue to make gains and expand their industry-specific offers. Incumbents that fail to move quickly enough to address customers’ needs are likely to get leapfrogged by more nimble competitors. Device makers, in particular, run the risk of seeing software and analytics competitors capture the value of solutions, leaving them to deliver lower-profitability hardware components.”

Removing barriers to adoption is critical – utilizing proven technology and service providers that understand customer pain points and have experience delivering end-to-end, secure, scalable systems is imperative. 

Internet of Things for the Food Industry

The digital revolution is upon us and the food industry is beginning to see the impact. With the help of the internet of things (IoT), food producers, processors, suppliers and retailers are uncovering opportunities to improve their operational efficiencies and drive growth.  With 90% of companies investing in big data, AI and IoT, managers have the ability to make critical business decisions that lead to real revenue and margin improvements.

1. Increase Operational Efficiency

Global food loss is a staggering 1.3 billion tons per year  which translates to and annual cost of $680B in industrialized nations and $310B in developing countries.  Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).  Besides this being hugely inefficient, it is unsustainable.  The food supply chain is beginning to take notice.  Some companies are starting to utilize sensors to track temperature, humidity and other parameters throughout the supply chain, increasing food safety and reducing retail shrink.  Other IoT technologies and cloud services can be used to store product data and automate food quality reporting.

2. Improved Food Safety

Government regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other similar agencies in industrialized countries,  have created a catalyst for global change in the food industry. Focusing on compliance, prevention and the complexities of the global supply chain,  regulations have steered the food industry to be more proactive and establish standards for food traceability and safety.

The use of real-time tracking of temperature and humidity can help companies closely monitor food safety data points, ensuring efficient cold chain management. Through this technology, the supply chain can work together to become compliant with local and global regulations.  By using automated Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) checklists during production, manufacturing and transporting processes, companies have access to consistent, meaningful data that empower them to implement food safety solutions.

3. Consumers Driving Supply Chain Transparency

Consumers expect transparency from the companies that they buy from — especially in the food industry.  Being open about sourcing, ingredients, handling, etc. and having these be traceable along the global supply chain driving consumer trust and loyalty – leading to higher revenues. Although domestic and international regulations can increase the complexity of the global food supply chain, IoT technologies can make it easy for both consumers and companies to track products.

IoT is powerful and can connect the supply chain to real-time product data, creating endless opportunities for the food industry. Companies can reap the benefits by finding and solving inefficiencies in the supply chain, meeting and exceeding food safety regulations, and providing transparency to consumers.

Some Appalling Statistics – IoT and AI can help solve this…

  • Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.
  • In developing countries 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.
  • The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people.
  • The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
  • The food currently lost in Africa could feed 300 million people.

Internet of Things for Facilities Managers

Kimberly-Clark Professional turned to IBM’s IoT cloud to help facilities managers monitor and manage the condition of restrooms remotely through the introduction of connected devices and an Intelligent Restroom app . The state of a building’s restrooms is critical in how tenants and customers perceive a business.  A dirty, unsanitary bathroom can cause customers and tenants to have a lower opinion of the facility – driving down customer satisfaction leading to lower overall revenue.  IoT enabled soap dispensers, air fresheners, toilet paper holders and other devices collect data that is sent to the cloud for processing and analysis.  Facilities managers can access the data from mobile or desktop devices to monitor the condition of the property’s restrooms –  anywhere, anytime.  A pilot study of the Intelligent Restroom app showed the number of supplies used by a facility decreased by up to 20 percent with the use of IoT enabled devices and analytics.

90% of US consumers own a smart home device

Recent research has revealed the current scale of smart home product adoption in the United States.

90 percent of U.S consumers now own some form of smart home device. This shows the IoT is well-and-truly reached mass adoption in the consumer space.

Other key findings include:

Over 90% surveyed have made a purchase of a connected home device

Nearly 70% already have a voice-controlled system such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home

58% percent of people who own a connected home device are concerned about how it may impact their privacy

74% of respondents think connected home devices are the wave of the future

Over 30% who do not have a connected home device plan to make a purchase within the year

Company that conducted the research surveyed over 1,000 consumers in the U.S for its report. The company says it covered a wide range of demographics and was distributed proportionately across the country.

The Possibilities of Ubiquitous Video Streams

The idea of video cameras everywhere is used to conjure up thoughts of Police States or 1984. Today however, each of us walks around with at least two cameras at the ready.

One on their phone and likely another such as video surveillance of the interior of their homes or overlooking their doorsteps. Cameras are everywhere and the tech giants have been investing huge sums into making this technology cheap, accessible, and ubiquitous.

In March, Amazon announced it was acquiring Ring, the video doorbell company. Several years back, Google had acquired Nest, which then acquired Dropcam and brought it into the fold. The two represent billions of dollars invested in developing both the hardware as well as the infrastructure to support large scale video recording and analysis. Over the same period, dozens of alternative products have come to market such as the WeMo NetCam, Netgear Arlo, and Canary. The video camera on other devices such as the Echo Show and the JIBO also have the flexibility of doubling as cameras for the home.

With so much video data being streamed, it begs the question of what’s possible when you combine multiple streams together along with some of the latest technologies around AI? What can consumers expect of these devices over the next 2-3 years and what are the considerations, especially around privacy, that we’ll need to resolve?

Large advances in hardware technology coupled with new means of processing video have allowed for the costs to exponentially decrease over the years and for the capabilities of these devices to similarly experience exponential growth. Bandwidth, latency, and congestion issues of wireless network technology being addressed means that 4K, 60 FPS video can be streamed without concern about the image being grainy, or buffering.

Behind the scenes, computer vision technology has become commoditized with more service providers offering up the technology and more functionalities being extended to developers. New technology around edge computing may allow for the benefits of computer vision AI with the security of local-based processing.

What can you do today?

In the home, the primary placement of cameras likely include:

  • Baby cams to check on infants and toddlers
  • Doorbell cameras that face out onto a front porch
  • Outdoor cameras looking at backyards
  • Indoor cameras looking at entry ways

Most of the cameras on the market today come with the ability to stream the video to a phone or desktop, backup the video online, take time lapse images, and push voice to the outcome through the camera. Some also have alerting features through app notifications, email, or text message for event triggers such as motion or the identification of a person.

With these features alone, you can already do a lot:

  • Know if a package has been delivered
  • See if anyone is home or has come / gone
  • Check if the surrounding area is safe
  • Get a sense of the environment remotely (e.g. is there light inside yet)
  • Provide voice communication to someone in the area
  • Check if an infant child is sleeping / safe

However, when you start to add more cameras combined with AI, you can abstract a lot more information about the environment.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM, among others, now offer computer vision APIs that can be implemented by even a novice developer with extended amazing functionality. These include the ability to:

  • Identify an object
  • Identify a person
  • Understand logos
  • Extract text
  • Determine “inappropriate content”
  • Transcribe the video
  • Identify handwriting
  • Identify smiles
  • Identify emotion
  • Estimate peoples’ ages
  • Identify gesture
  • Identify foods

There is a lot of overlap among the service providers and while today these services are still too expensive for continuous use (they cost pennies per minute), the price will likely drop to pennies per hour or day over the next few years. Even with only this capability, it’s already possible to start extending the applications that are currently available on today’s webcams such as:

  • Tracking a user from room to room
  • Logging when someone arrives home or leaves
  • Tracking the emotion of different people in frame throughout the day
  • Keeping a record of what we’re talking about
  • Tracking visitors to the home

Today, this is achievable without needing to develop new technologies. What’s coming next will reshape how we adopt these devices.

The Next Five Years

The next generation of in-home cameras is going to combine advanced embedded AI features together with a highly reliable connection to online processing. We’ll see Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby, among others, embedded into the products and with that, the capability for them to understand what’s happening around us. Maybe we’ll become more comfortable with the idea of live streaming inside our home if the benefits are substantial.

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3 ways machine learning is revolutionizing IoT

Source: Network World

A few technologies and concepts have propelled the IoT’s dizzying growth in recent years as much as machine learning.  Independent, intelligent machines that can comb through data to make their own decisions are, to some, the only reason such phenomenon as the IoT can exist in the first place. So what are the top three ways in which machine learning has and will shape the IoT?

  1. Making data useful
  2. Making the IoT more secure
  3. Expanding the scope of the IoT

3 ways machine learning is revolutionizing IoT



The Next Frontier in Digital Health

Digital health was prominently displayed at CES this year with lots of floor space dedicated to the industry and a cornucopia of health and fitness-focused wearable devices debuting in Las Vegas.

The declining costs of hardware components, the ubiquity of smartphones and the need for consumers to cut their medical costs is spurring innovation in many areas of digital health.  Given these trends, the line between health and fitness devices is blurring.   Every consumer electronics company from Sony to LG to Samsung is either getting into the game or thinking about it.  But as activity tracking becomes increasingly more commoditized, health device makers need to step-up their offerings and focus on disease management and improving outcomes.   Every patient consumer wants simple interfaces that engage them and allows them to gain valuable insights into their health and wellbeing – not achieved by the current cadre of activity sensors.

Health device makers and wellness apps wanting to provide real value for their customers are moving beyond step counting and integrating into connected health services in the cloud.  These services use a holistic approach to engaging the provider and patient in managing adherence and compliance and by extension – outcomes.    Incorporating physicians, pharmacists, therapists and trainers as part of an integrated “care-team” allows for meaningful patient engagement easing compliance and allowing patients to become “emotionally” accountable for using the app or device as directed by their care-team.   For healthcare providers, this same integration made possible by ubiquitous connectivity – allows them to think and engage beyond the practical aspects of care – the exam, laboratory test or simple disease management.

The past year has proved that many pieces are in place (desire, policy, market demand, innovation, investment, etc.) for a radical transformation in healthcare. We’re beginning to see many aspects of our health and wellness reimagined.  There is now a growing community of stakeholders who understand that change is not only possible, but inevitable, and best of all are taking action to see those changes come true.  The next step in this tectonic shift, is leveraging a higher level of connectivity where data, devices and humans are optimally connected to enable good care decisions – shifting the cost curve and encouraging accountability and adherence beyond what’s offered by today’s consumer health devices.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine
Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Google Unveils Smart Contact Lens

Google unveiled a contact lens that monitors glucose levels in tears, a potential reprieve for millions of diabetics who have to jab their finger to draw their own blood as many as 10 times a day.  The lens uses a minuscule glucose sensor and a wireless transmitter to help the 382 million diabetics around the world that need need insulin and who keep a close watch of their sugar levels.
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Source: Google
Source: Google