Four Trends in Internet of things (IoT)
The Smart Summit took place in London last week and brought together some of the best minds and the latest technology in five key areas; Home, Cities, Insurance, Utilities, Retail and LPWAN. The technology is just starting to come of age, over the coming months we will start to see some interesting applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) in our homes and society at large. However, before it can see adoption in the mainstream, I believe four key areas need to be addressed before it will become ubiquitous in everyone’s home.
Trend 1 – Battle for the standards
The IoT marketplace has many vendors each trying to promote their protocol, most of the standards don’t work together. The ecosystem is fragmented with different providers like Sonos, Ring video doorbell, Apple home kit, Google home, TP-Link, Bosch smarthome, Quivicon, Amazon smart home automation to name a few are all producing stand-alone ecosystems.
Most people if you are like me will have joined the IoT revolution by accident. I started with the Sonos audio system blown away by the superior sound quality and mesh networking capabilities that could magically synchronise the music around my home. But I get frustrated by the bespoke protocols that mean I can’t for example stream music from my iMac using iTunes I have to use the Sonos app or use Apple music monthly subscription service to achieve this.
My second IoT device was the Ring video doorbell after a spate of burglaries in my street; I reasoned at least being able to snap a picture of whoever comes to my door could be useful in the event of a robbery. But once again it requires a bespoke app that doesn’t work with other services however recently this is improving with support from Amazon and other third-party suppliers.
A key driver to the success of IoT is the smart hub that is controlling all the communication with these IoT devices. Which operate using various wireless technologies, for example, Bluetooth & BLE, Wifi, Zigbee and WiMAX. Some Internet Service Providers have already started selling this with their routers to increase adoption. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom added a smart home hub to all their routers allowing a user to create an inexpensive smart home hub. Currently, in the UK market, there are so many standards to choose from, take a look at this article on all the available hubs currently available. Which service will dominate in 12 months time will be exciting to watch.
Trend 2 – New Business models to capitalise on the new technology.
There could be a radical shake-up of the insurance industry traditional business models for example. A customer who is willing to have monitoring systems installed in their home such as smoke detectors, water leak detectors, carbon monoxide detectors fitted can expect to get lower premiums. The likelihood of a claim is significantly reduced due to all the IoT devices that are monitoring our homes. The principles of this technology have been demonstrated in the car industry through the use of black box devices fitted to cars that transmit the data back to the insurer to get reduced premiums for good driving. This model can have particular benefits for younger less experienced drivers who otherwise would have to pay quite expensive premiums.
Another example is Pet insurance which is a large market in the UK. 1PartPet is proposing an innovative device to allow pet owners to monitor the behaviour of their animals remotely using GPS tracking that was pioneered by the car telematics industry.
It meets one of the key needs for pet owners which is tracking their pet in real time and knowing where their pet is, but it also has additional benefits in encouraging the owner to monitor the pet’s health, and a whole ecosystem of veterinary care and customer loyalty on pet products can be developed.
Vitality customer engagement and IoT
The Life Insurance company Vitality have demonstrated this model quite effectively showing how a customer loyalty programme that rewards good health builds the stickiness of their clients. It works by customers registering a fitness device IoT from suppliers such as Garmin, Fitbit, and Apple that monitors exercise and rewards them with Cinema and coffee.
Vitality members generate up to 30% lower hospitalization costs and live from 13 to 21 years longer than the rest of the insured population (up to 41 years longer than comparable uninsured populations). Source: HBR
The retention rate for customers is great with Vitality boosting healthy lifestyle for it members and therefore lower payouts. I have personally used this service and have to admit it is quite addictive to keep up with your points each week.
New disruptive startups.
See a breakdown of 12 of the most exciting Startups to watch in the IoT space,
Trend 3: Use of voice to control IoT devices
A huge area of growth is Voice as the technology gets more and more useful. Voice is a much more natural form of communication rather than using an electronic device. There is already a partnership between Amazon and Microsoft using their voice technologies. We will also start to see other alliances in the IoT space. For example, Bragi also announced that they would partner with Amazon to bring Alexa and audible support to their wireless headphones.
September 27th saw the announcement of a whole range of voice-activated devices by Amazon which could be a game changer. Amazon is going for a large share of the IoT ecosystem, and this looks like a genius move. Providing the public are happy to be within listening and video range of Amazon products. The security of which is yet to be examined, but if they can pull this off, they could have a market leading advantage.
Trend 4: Securing the cyber front door.
The level of security in a lot of IoT devices is very worrying with many devices having obvious default root passwords; there have already been significant incidents of botnets taking control of IoT devices such as the Hajme botnet. Every week on Steve Gibson Security Now podcast you can see examples of weak security or wrong design on IoT devices.
This is an excellent 20-minute video by Cory Doctorow that highlights some of the challenges of Privacy and Security for the future of IoT. WARNING: You may become paranoid about computers and the future after listening to this!
There is a trend for software locks and Digital Rights Management which prevents consumers from managing their own devices. Most disturbingly the digital millennium copyright law makes it a felony to disclose a bug that could help you jailbreak a device.
“Security is a process and not a product”.
The principle of security that makes it useful is the principle of disclosure whereby there is a peer review of a system to allow the system to be challenged and made more secure. As computers become more integral in the vehicles we drive the buildings we live and tools we use in our everyday life there is a nightmare scenario where location-aware IoT devices that could potentially shut down and prevent you from using it due to non-payment or a bug!
It is a continuous process as new vulnerabilities are found and need to be mitigated. There is an inherent self-interest for the manufacturer to demand custom loyalty. The US patent office (see page 11) has shown how different manufacturers, i.e. John Deere are patenting techniques to lock customers into their system by making it a felony to know about bugs in its vehicles and locking customers in vendor maintenance agreements.
However the future is not all doom and gloom, I like the way that Cory Doctorow asks us to have hope for the future of the IoT and to challenge the standards and monopolies for the benefit of the greater good.
“Have hope, when your ship sinks tread water until the rescue come…although we have not reached peak control or peak surveillance, we have reached peaked indifference for surveillance “.
In all the projects that I work on, there is a need for good continuous security practices and making sure that the customer gets the best experience and the most secure one.