INSIGHT

Flash bang wallop

Shock announcement: the internet of things is here

Online supermarket Ocado recently delivered flyers to homes in Central London advertising smart home products. Er, why? Put simply, the years of hype are over. We’re calling it today. 2016 will be seen as the year when the Internet of Things finally arrived. For real. In our homes. In the first of a two-part miniseries on the dawning of the iot, we examine the growth in ground-breaking connected products.

Nothing illustrates the arrival of the iot better than ocado’s leafletting. Of course, adoption will continue to be patchy. And Ocado was clearly taking into account that Central London is rammed full of early adopters. After all, these were the first hipsters to develop a predisposition for the once-revolutionary habit of doing the weekly shop online. And this time Ocado’s flyers offered everything from cameras and baby monitors to ambient lighting and motion sensors.

But the important thing to note is that Ocado is a retailer. Not a manufacturer. It’s not about promotion of a category to jump start a revolution. It’s about selling kit to real people. And not just hipsters.

As noted by Mobiletoday, John Lewis, the middle classes’ traditionally-minded store of choice, has introduced a smart home showroom at its Oxford Street flagship and launched an installation service. This was in response to an 81 per cent increase in sales of smart home products in 2015.

Not a flash in the pan

So Ocado is not alone. And demand from retailers is being met by supply. Morgan Stanley has compiled data from over one hundred decision makers at manufacturing firms, and found 90 percent are developing new chips and sensors with iot in mind.

What this tells us is that the 2016 push isn’t a flash-in-the-pan moment.

With a 12-18 month development cycle for iot devices to reach the market, we’re now braced for a second rash of products in the back end of 2017, with growth accelerating in 2018.

 
 

So which manufacturers stand to gain most by a surge of demand? Philips arrived early and - in a company blog - Executive Vice President Pieter Nova confirms iot is “central” to Phillips’ innovation. Not a surprise to those of us with its fitness wearable, air monitor or wireless lights. But Philips is also thinking beyond the home. The citytouch street lighting system empowers authorities to implement smart street lighting, saving energy and making maintenance easier and more efficient.

Never leave the iron on again

Samsung is also firmly on the pitch. Its smartthings range includes a motion sensor, presence sensor (to keep track of easily misled items) and a smart plug that can be controlled remotely – ending the time honoured tradition of racing home to see if you’ve left the iron on. Thewirecutter declared smartthings the ‘Best Smart Hub’ due to price (£199 for the UK Starter Kit), compatibility and ease of use.

Less long-established firms are also trying to get in on the iot action. British company Hive (founded 2012) is owned by British Gas, which according to zdnet has installed the smart home technology in 350,000 homes, with more eager customers in the pipeline.

Smart Philippe Starck design

France’s Netatmo (founded 2011) has a range of toothsome iot enabled products ranging from facial recognition security systems to the Healthy Home Coach, which measures humidity, air quality, noise levels and temperatures in the home. Nasdaq reports the firm’s disruptive Philippe Starck-designed Smart Thermostat, released this month, will help users reduce energy bills by 37 per cent.

German firm Devolo (founded 2002) launched two new products for its extensive smart home range earlier this month. Globenewswire reports the Water Sensor can detect minute leaks and alert homeowners to the problem. Meanwhile the Humidity Sensor continuously monitors humidity and temperature and alerts the user if measurements become too high or too low.

Few bites for Apple

Interestingly, there has been a muted response to Apple’s smart home product development. Theregister notes that since launching its piecemeal iot service through a new app in ios 10 called Home, there has been little further innovation. “Why does no one want Apple’s iot tech?” They ask. Homekit’s main stumbling block is a lack of compatibility, which means it won’t work with the likes of Google Home or Amazon Echo. “Apple has an uphill battle trying to impose the same constraints it put on ios in the iot market for the simple reason that iot is first and foremost a hardware game,” says Register journalist Kieren mccarthy.

The fuse is lit

Finally, to drive home the 2016 call, an Econsultancy report on Web Summit, one of the world’s largest tech conferences. The article, ‘Why markets need to pay attention to the internet of things’ warns against iot complacency: “While iot may still seem like an ‘out there’ trend that takes up space in marketing and technology publications, the reality is that it will eventually transform entire industries as well as how we live our everyday lives.”

Some eye-opening statistics are included to back this stance; according to Gartner there will be nearly 26 billion things connected to the internet by 2020. Cisco says there will be 50 billion. Intel predicts the number to be as many as 200 billion.

So is there a boom in iot products? It’s fair to say the fuse is lit. Stand by for the explosion. And remember that Virgin Media Business called it as starting in 2016.

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