Hamilton Should Take Advantage Of The IoT Opportunity

The following is adapted from a speech Adrian Duyzer gave at the HamOnt IoT Conference 2017.

Before I start talking about IoT, I want to discuss another acronym: FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out.

This is an acronym that marketing people love, because they use it on you to try and get you to buy stuff.

It works because the fear of missing out is real. We’ve all done things we wouldn’t otherwise do because we were frightened of missing out.

So, why is FOMO so powerful? I think one of the reasons is because when you miss out on something, you’re left with something none of us want to experience.

Regret.

In this article, I’m going to try and use a little FOMO on all of you, but not to try and persuade you to buy anything, but rather to try and persuade you to start something. That “thing” is something — anything — related to IoT.

I’m going to do this because I want to save you from that nasty little feeling called regret.

I’m going to do this because I think it’d be really great for all of us if we had a thriving ecosystem of IoT technology providers locally.

And I’m going to this because we’re looking at a huge opportunity right now, and I don’t think we’re taking advantage of it.

Let me start with what’s going on in the field. The Internet of Things isn’t a new concept: we’ve been attaching sensors to machines and processing the data they generate for decades.

However, there is no question that we have entered a new era. In part this is because the technology has matured. Cheap and robust sensors, cellular data plans specifically designed for IoT, edge devices for on-premise data processing: all of the IoT components you need to build great solutions are well-tested and getting cheaper by the month.

IoT is also benefiting from other technologies maturing. Machine learning is a great example of this. One of the great promises of IoT is that industrial equipment can be fixed before it breaks. This idea, predictive maintenance, previously required the creation of sophisticated software models that simulated the equipment in question.

There are now solutions that utilize unsupervised machine learning, where software automatically learns the normal relationship between sensor inputs and can then detect anomalies and warn people about them.

This is amazing, next level, Minority Report shit!

But improvements to the core technology aren’t the real story here. The real story here is that we’ve figured out how to create value for customers. Predictive maintenance alone is estimated to save manufacturers somewhere around $500 billion by 2025.

Of course, if you’re like me, someone with technical skills or business skills but far from a data scientist, when you hear things like “unsupervised machine learning”, you might think, “how am I supposed to create real value here?” or “How can I get started?”

And the answer is, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

The first, easiest way to take advantage of IoT is connected operations: getting things to send data to the Internet and giving people ways of looking at and reporting on that data.

Add a few sensors to a production line that can detect what product is being produced, how many of them are coming off the line, and how many are rejected due to quality problems. Build a slick web-based interface so these numbers can be tracked in real-time and reported on historically. Make it work on a smartphone. Do all this, and you’ve created a ton of value.

The reason I keep hammering on this word “value” is because value is what people pay for.

Value creation is the driving force that powers the industry’s jaw-dropping growth projections.

Projections like these:

  • The Industrial Internet has the potential to deliver $11.1 trillion US annually by 2025, 70% of which is expected to be captured by business-to-business solutions.
  • Nearly $6 trillion US will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years.
  • Some 34 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020.

These are huge numbers! To put this into perspective, the entire GDP of Canada in 2015 was $1.5 trillion US.

Of course, money isn’t the only thing. By seeking to create value, we create careers with meaning. The world has a lot of problems. IoT is a technology with profound promise to help us address them.

I started out by writing that I wanted to save you from experiencing regret. My concern is that here in Hamilton I don’t think we’re currently capturing this opportunity to anywhere near the extent we could be. Try googling “iot hardware company hamilton” and see what you come up with. I’ll save you the effort: nothing.

Ultimately, though, that’s good news: there are a lot of opportunities. So, how do we take advantage of them here in Hamilton? There’s a few things I’d love to see.

First, a vibrant ecosystem of companies pursuing this opportunity by creating real value. I have to assume there’s a bunch that I just don’t know about — it’s time to start talking about these companies and advertising their services more effectively.

If you’re working at one of them, let me know about it!

Second, strong partnerships: every IoT project needs hardware, networking, and software, and that’s not counting all of the ancillary stuff that you might need too, like analysis. Let’s work together on this.

When we do, let’s remember that a great experience for customers isn’t the only thing. A great experience for the people you partner with is also important. Put another way, partnerships shouldn’t suck, so put the time and energy into thinking about how you can be a great partner, and I think you’ll attract a lot of success from companies who enjoy working with you.

Third, a great brand. Hamilton could become known as the place to find great IoT solutions. We have decades of industrial experience here. The concentration of industry, transportation and logistics companies here is already enough to provide a fertile proving ground for innovative, made-in-Hamilton solutions.

So, if I’ve done my job, there’s a little voice in the back of your mind that’s going to bug you over the next few weeks, and it’s going to say, “you know what, there’s a real opportunity here”. Listen to that voice.

You’ve heard the numbers today: the opportunity is real. You know what the local marketplace is like right now: it’s underserved. You’re interested or you wouldn’t be here today. So get started!

First, consider starting an IoT company, or if you work at a company that could do IoT work but isn’t, talk to the owners. Let’s create a local ecosystem of IoT companies that are focused on creating real value.

Second, focus on building strong partnerships — partnerships that don’t suck.

Third, help Hamilton build a great brand. We could become known as the place to find great IoT solutions.

Lastly, let’s do it together.