Brawling for a foothold

IOT – How Your Company Can Use The Internet of Things to Win in the Outcome Economy – Bruce Sinclair – 2017

If you believe the IoT is an island off the West Coast of the UK with a funny selection of legs on its flag and an annual motorbike race, then this book could be very valuable.

Sinclair, the founder and president of Iot-Inc, says you will be in good and abundant company in the race to develop and monetise IoT products and systems.

“It is not just the start-ups taking the arrows in the back while larger, more established competitors wait until markets mature and technologies settle,” he writes. “They are all brawling for a foothold.”

Frustratingly, Sinclair focuses his thoughts and findings primarily on those businesses developing IoT products. Not start-up boffins but established manufacturing, industrial or service firms, such as the pest company that has made a wonderfully imaginative IoT mouse catcher, which can not only catch the creatures scuttling behind the skirting boards but add realms of data and analysis on top.

This reader would have liked to read about the opportunities for those firms without the nous, money or skills to create their own products but that would be willing buyers if they could find a profitable role for them.

Nevertheless, there is plenty for both developers and end-users of products to nibble on.

Sinclair initially simplifies IoT, which can appear a complex world to many. He believes it will be as transformative as the internet. The internet, of course – as Sinclair reiterates – is the real power behind telematics, connected toothbrushes, low-cost manufacturing using sensors, and oil and gas firms drilling up valuable data.

He reverts to the mousetrap to illustrate the stages of the evolution that has taken place: a smart trap will close the door when a mouse comes in, a connected one may allow you to communicate with the trap remotely but an IoT trap can do all the above and add access to other data sources, such as the weather.

“IoT can bring to bear the full capabilities of the internet into your physical products,” he writes. “You can see how your customers use the product, what they do with it and continuously update and iterate it. Customers and consumers are asking what products can do for them. It is the Outcome Economy.”

Sinclair outlines how businesses can best use the data they receive from their products. For the data to be valuable, businesses must transform it into useful information (such as how to improve existing products) but also identify new ideas that were invisible before. They must also look for and identify ways to monetise their developments.

New services can also evolve from connected products, such as connected tools in the construction trade, which lead on to IoT devices that can find structural problems in floors and walls and even notify building owners when doors or windows are left open.

“You can create a suite of product lines,” Sinclair writes. He also touches on barriers to adoption, such as a talent gap in the sector, especially software developers and data scientists.

Sinclair does tend to delve into technological speak with references to cybermodels and Fog Layers. There is also some splattering of equations you perhaps wish you had left behind in your school maths lessons. But overall this is a well written, enthusiastic and comprehensive guide to businesses eager for a clearer understanding of IoT. It shows that developments in this area are not just confined to Silicon Valley or big corporate budgets. Even traditional firms, manufacturers of physical things which have been with us for decades or centuries, can now take their place in the Internet of Things.