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Making Internet Things

Forfatter: 
jimmi
Category: 
Lab Confidential
Internet of things has been around for more than a decade and we have had emotionally fragmented use of IoT devices since. Now, IoT has finally become democratized and absorbed into everyday lives. It’s not too late for your products to join!
if one thing can prevent the Internet of things from transforming the way we live and work, it will be a breakdown in security
The Oxford English Dictionary

The Internet of Things is not new. But it has never been more relevant than now. We are in the middle of a perfect storm where digital superpowers bring new products, services and business models. Bridging physical and digital. Driven by data. Here’s what you need to know.
This post about IoT is the first in a series of 3 explaining how and where to get started.

IoT Storm

The storm has been brewing from two sides. Physical products, structures and those producing them have added sensors, displays, Internet connectivity and controls. Digital companies, looking for new markets and real life user data, are carving their way in the physical world through the Internet of Things.

This is relevant to you, if you or your company are considering:

  • building and selling intelligent products

  • designing smarter work environments (production, office, retail)

  • testing data-driven business models

  • long-term survival

  • saving lives

The Internet of Things is impacting and connecting industries on all levels: solutions, business models, strategy and organisations.

Internet of Things - towards autonomy

Disclaimers: We use the words smart and intelligent interchangeably. Things or structures are smart or intelligent when their functionality is changed as a direct consequence of sensor data. Another important distinction: at Innovation Lab we have seen plenty of technically smart and intelligent products which weren’t smart or intelligent from a user or business perspective.

Things and structures can be defined as having intelligence built-in (i.e. designed and produced with sensors and connectivity built in) or retrofitted. We’ve seen this in products like Philips Hue. Or it could to be added after it has come into use, like emberlight which turns your existing light bulbs into IoT-devices.

 

There are four levels of intelligence when designing smart solutions:

  1. Remote Monitoring: Detecting status of things and structures (E.g. water temperature and amount of cups brewed can be monitored remotely)

  2. Remote Control: Changing status of things and structures (Adjust water temperature and start brewing coffee remotely)

  3. Optimization: Improve status of things and structures (Based on weekly consumption overview you preset coffee machine to brew at exact same time every morning)

  4. Autonomy: Status of things and structures change automatically (Coffee machine monitors your consumption and behavior and brews stronger coffee on Monday mornings)

Source: HBR

The purpose of building intelligence into things and structures should be autonomy. Otherwise, smart does not make sense (pun intended). Some tasks are performed better without humans deciding when and how because our evolutionary memory and ability to multitask is deeply flawed. Digitalization will help outsource and automate tasks and memory.

Things and structures will communicate to bring additional benefits. They may communicate:

1-1: Alarm clocks turns on coffee machine

1-Many: Alarm clock turns on coffee machine, tells car to heat up and lets dog into house

Many-Many: Smartphone controls several home devices, car (& traffic-adjusted route to work)

Any Internet of Things-solution can therefore conceptually range from simple 1-1 monitoring to complex Many-Many Autonomy.

Botanicalls -> Spiio Leaf

Almost 10 years ago Innovation Lab set up a couple of Botanicalls, a DIY kit with a sensor making plants smart. The Botanicall would post on our Social Media if the plant at the Innovation Lab-office needed water.

Once watered it would post a “Thank you”-note on the same Social Media.

10 years on, Innovation Lab is once again caring for their office plant with the all new (and Danish) Spiio Leaf. The concept is exactly the same - You’re automatically notified when/if your plants need water. But now you’ll know the exact water percentage in the soil as well as the temperature- and lighting conditions, so you can provide your plant with just the right treatment to make it blossom.


This only goes to show that the technology has been around for a long time, but due to the price of technology and connectivity, the democratization of products have been slow, and many of the things that Innovation Lab worked with a decade ago is only just starting to reappear in the hands of the many.

Creating Smart Stuff 

We are definitely moving from a push to a pull market with users requesting solutions that adjust and improve with usage. However, creating successful Internet of Things-solutions is not as easy as putting in sensors and intelligence, and will ultimately have to pass the same two tests as any purely physical or digital products:

 

  • Product/Solution Fit: "Is there a problem worth solving?" & "Can and should we?"

  • Product/Market Fit: "Is my product desirable and am I presenting it to the right market?"

 

Although you could start building your IoT solution today, there are obvious key questions to consider:

 

  • Built-in / Retrofit - or both? Embedded or cloud?
  • Data - What can we use it for? Improved performance? Lower cost? New business models?
  • 1-1/Many-Many - Connectivity to other products or structures?
  • Build or buy - In-house or outsource?
  • Security - With Connectivity comes vulnerability?
  • Organisation -  Do we have the necessary skills for building IOT? If not, how to get it asap?
  • Platform - Which IoT platform is best for our product? Several or only one?

By having intelligence built into the solution also allows you to measure more accurately whether you are on track or not. Or if users are behaving in new and unpredicted ways. The inventors of the following products most certainly did not answer consider every question above, nor did they track user behavior:

 A Bluetooth Tamburine

Autonomous baby stroller

If you are interested in more questionable examples of Internet of Things, follow The Internet of Shit on Twitter.

In Short:

In the following months we will be digging deeper into the most important considerations regarding the Internet of Things and how to kickstart the process. But do feel free to contact us if you’re interested in knowing more on what we do with IoT, how we do it and how we can help you.

 

/Anders & Jimmi