The IoT will not happen on cellular and PAN alone.
The Internet of Things has a problem. Unless we start looking at a new infrastructure, it may peter out after the first fifty billion devices. Everyone seems to be so excited about predicting whether it will be 20 billion or 50 billion or 1.5 trillion that they’ve forgotten about how the connectivity and business models will scale.
There’s a general consensus that we’ll get to between 25 and 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The first 25 billion of these is foreseeable. Around a quarter of it will come from personal devices – mobile phones, tablets, laptops, gaming devices, set-top boxes and even cars, using cellular or broadband connections. They need moderately expensive broadband contracts, but we’ll pay as we can stream lots of data. The same again will come from machine-to-machine (M2M) connections where broadband or cellular connectivity is embedded in commercial products to monitor their performance. That covers everything from telematics, connected medical devices, asset tracking, smart buildings and everything from vending machines to credit card readers. In this case the service contracts are justified by improved business efficiency.
The second 25 billion is likely to come from locally connected devices – generally personal products which connect to smartphones. Eighteen months ago I wrote a report on these appcessories, predicting that they could grow to an installed base of around 20 billion in 2020, getting us close to the total of 50 billion. These will piggy-back on existing broadband contracts, so most won’t have a service model. At best, there may be an opportunity for selling apps or subscription services.
However, at that point, future growth may start to slow. Although these products all get referred to as the Internet of Things, they’re only that in the loosest sense, as they rely either on personal user setup, or professional installation. Both are time consuming and a barrier to ubiquitous deployment. To achieve the real Internet of Things we need products which can be taken out of their box and which connect and work autonomously. Without that, we’ll never get past the tens of billions. Despite all of the IoT hype around, no-one is really addressing the hole that needs to be filled. We need an Infrastructure of Things – a new Low Power, Wide Area, end-to-end wireless Network (LPWAN), along with a new approach to data provisioning for life. This article explains why and what the options may be. Continue →