Startups and the opportunities offered by IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a noisy buzzword recently. However, there is still a place for discussion on how it will develop shortly.

One common opinion is that IoT is mainly about wearables and smart devices (also, more widely, smart homes). That is true. However, it should be mentioned that IoT will affect our lives much deeper and in a much more intriguing way.

IoT is not just about us (humans) and maybe not particularly about the connected machines. Most probably, IoT is going to be important because of the new ways information will be collected and utilized.

According to Gartner, there are about 5 billion sensors currently connected to the Internet, and this number will reach 21 billion in 2020 and 40 billion by 2030.

Every sensor gives us some data, and together they give us huge amounts of data to be collated, analyzed and utilized. This inevitably creates a broad spectrum of new data analysis algorithms, machine learning, low-power connectivity solutions and many more possibilities for data usage.

Let’s imagine how this may change some industries we know

In agriculture and farming, for example, you might distribute smart sensors among the seeds and monitor temperatures, humidity, soil acidity and other metrics with an accuracy of as little as a square foot.

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Then you might water or fertilize your plants according to their actual needs. You wouldn’t even need to schedule this; the tractor (or might be drone) will screen the data from the sensors around and automatically adjust watering levels according to actual needs (for example, look at this startup).

The same is for animal breeding. Some might think that a “connected cow” is an unreasonably expensive joke but it is not. Each case of mastitis (a potentially fatal infection of the udder) costs farmers around $400. And that is only one case. It is quite important to know as early as possible when your cow is ill, pregnant or simply tired. Again, the farmer doesn’t need to do anything special in every case. In most cases the nutritional supply may be automatically adjusted, and necessary medications could be added.

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Returning from the fields to the city; the next big thing for IoT is healthcare. We are already able to monitor many important health indicators and send this data to the doctor in real-time. But soon it will be possible to do even more.

The accuracy of diagnosis is strictly tailored to the amount of data collected, the period of time this data is being monitored, and the quality of data analysis. Smart wearables, as well as (possibly) smart pills we will carry inside, will collect and report relevant data and command us to exercise, to rest, to sleep or to drink another glass of water.

Many other areas of our lives will be drastically affected by the IoT revolution, but now we want to think, what can we do to tame this storm?

There are several layers of innovations that we should take into account. And these are the areas where startups should invest their efforts, and investors will put their money.

I. Hardware level

Sensors, transmitters, nano power supplies

II. Protocol level

New low-power communication protocols (think Thread for example) and their implementation

III. Data level

Data processing is key. Even now, we already collect more data than we can efficiently process.

IV. Security level

Everything connected to the Internet can be hacked. That is a law. The more devices connected the higher the risk of illegal access to these devices and collected data.

Right now we see escalating activity in the first three areas. For example, look at these graphs. The fourth one (security domain) is still a gray area. However, it will be interesting to see what happens in this field in the next few years.

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This is an intriguing and exciting time for high-tech startups. Previously, the startup world was mainly spinning around “classic” Internet solutions like social services, messengers, image and video hosting and so on, however, now there is the time for real technologies to be on the frontline.

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