The Internet of Things and Networks of Everything

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a hot topic for several months now, and there are new stories about it in the business and technology press on a daily basis. While it’s easy to view these as hype at worst and vision at best, there is no denying that purveyors of hardware, software and services are dedicating and creating the resources they will use to capitalize on the IoT. Last week alone, there were three announcements that show just how quickly the IoT market is progressing and how big of a business opportunity it is.
On Monday, September 14th, IBM formally launched a distinct IoT business unit and named former Thomas Cook Group CEO Harriet Green as its leader. The new IoT unit is the first significant step by IBM toward delivering on the $3 billion commitment it made to IoT in March. IBM signaled in Monday’s press release that the unit will “soon” number about 2,000 consultants, researchers and developers, who will use IBM’s assets to help customers get up and running on the IoT. Those assets will likely include the Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS), Watson and other analytics software, as well as the MQTT messaging protocol standard for machine-to-machine communication that IBM submitted to OASIS in 2013.
The next day, Salesforce.com used its annual Dreamforce conference as the grand stage on which to unveil its IoT Cloud. This offering has at its core a new “massively scalable”, real-time event processing engine named ‘Thunder’ (to complement Salesforce’s ‘Lightening’ UI framework). IoT Cloud connects IoT resources and Thunder rules-based workflow to route data between them, triggering pre-defined actions. For example, when an individual enters a retail store, a beacon can offer them discounts based on qualification criterion such as loyalty program status and in-store inventory levels. Scenarios such as this will be possible because of IoT Cloud’s integration with the Salesforce Sales, Marketing and Analytics Clouds. IoT Cloud is currently in pilot and is expected to be generally available sometime in the second half of 2016.
While these two announcements are important milestones in the respective organizations ability to help customers connect to and use the IoT, they do not enable them to do so immediately and risk being labeled as more IoT hype. The sheer magnitude of resources assembled for each of these vendors initiatives signals that they believe that the IoT will be both real and profitable in the not-so-distant future.
The final piece of related news from last week underscores that smaller, pure-play vendors are delivering tools that help their customers get on the IoT now. Build.io announced that Flow, its integration PaaS that had been beta released in March, is now generally available. Flow features a drag-and-drop interface that is used to connect IoT elements ─ sensors and other intelligent devices, backend systems, mobile applications and other software ─ into an integrated system. Connections are made at the API level. Like Salesforce’s Thunder, Flow uses rules-based event processing to trigger actions from IoT data. In essence, Build.io is delivering today a critical part of what Salesforce intends to make generally available later this year.

Current State of the Internet of Things and Networks of Everything

These announcements, taken together, mean that the IoT is poised for takeoff. The first sets of user-friendly tools that organizations need to connect IoT nodes, transmit their data and use it to drive business processes are available now, in some cases, or will be coming to market within a year. We are on the cusp of a rapid acceleration in the growth of the market for software underpinning the IoT, as well as the network itself.
This latest batch of IoT announcements from software vendors underscores another thing: the IoT will initially be built separately from enterprise social networks (ESNs). Many organizations, particularly large enterprises, have experimented with ESNs and a few have managed to build ones that are operating at scale and creating value. Those businesses will be turning their attention to IoT development now, if they haven’t already. They will pilot, then scale, their efforts there, just as they did with ESNs.
Eventually, organizations will realize that it is more efficient and effective to build Networks of Everything (NoE), in which humans and machines communicate and collaborate with one another using not only the Internet, but also cellular, Bluetooth, NFC, RFID and other types of networks. This construct is just beginning to enter reality, and it will take a few years before NoE get the market attention that ESNs did five years ago and the IoT is now.
At some future point, when NoE have become a fixture of networked business, we will look back at this month (Sept. 2015) and declare that it was a watershed moment in the development of the IoT. We’ll also laugh at how obvious it seems, in hindsight, that we should have just built NoE in the first place.

Focusing social platforms for community marketing

One of the things social media marketing will need if it’s going to live up to its aggressive $5 billion spending forecast is more differentiation between marketing and collaboration platforms. Companies like Jive Software, Lithium, Mzinga and Telligent offer social network platforms aimed at both employees and customers. They may not be able to have it both ways much longer.

Today in Cleantech

It’s finally here! Yesterday, California Public Utility Commission issued what it expects to be its official rules for managing the security and privacy of utility customer energy data when it comes to smart meters, home energy management devices and every other potential gadget and business case that can be attached to the smart grid. We’ve covered many of the key issues surrounding this groundbreaking ruling, including the CPUC’s interesting definitions of just how customers’ data should be treated, and how utilities and their business partners should be held liable for protecting its privacy and security. The ruling also requires California’s big three utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — to roll out all the smart grid/home energy technology pilots they’ve been putting off for the past few years, which should make for some interesting smart grid projects to come in the months ahead. I’ll be keeping a close eye on developments on the smart grid front here in California, but not from this site — as of today, I’ll be leaving my post as GigaOM Pro’s Green IT curator. It’s been a pleasure writing for you all, and I look forward to staying in touch with you amidst my future endeavors in the green technology field. Cheers!

What Local Social Commerce Needs to Really Take Off

Last week, a handful of local e-commerce and interactive marketing announcements from Groupon, eBay, and others hinted at future accelerators for the already-hot social commerce space. For social commerce to really take off, suppliers must tap national marketing budgets, fine-tune personalized offers and expand beyond customer acquisition into retention.

Today in Social

Salesforce.com emerges as the acquirer of buzz-monitoring company Radian6. This appears to be a good match for the future mining of social media big data in support of CRM and enterprise business intelligence. Matthew Ingram runs down the deal, and notes the trend of enterprise software socialization. Some observers wonder at the price, as Salesforce says the acquisition will add $45 million in incremental FY sales. Others see this as competitive with a previous Salesforce investment in Seesmic. But Seesmic feels a lot more consumer-y or small-business-ish, while Radian6 appears more like an enterprise toolset. Seesmic front-ends and plug-ins should complement to the Salesforce offering. Meanwhile, another company in the enterprise social media space, Jive, is beefing up its board. Could an IPO be coming?

How Online Startups can Build Audiences on the Cheap

Last week, two prominent investors declared in blog posts that key marketing tactics favored by consumer startups were no longer viable. There’s no more free lunch, they said, you can’t build an audience off of search engine optimization or Facebook anymore. The truth is, there never was any free lunch, and no single marketing tactic – by itself – is ever enough.

Today in Social

Remember when dotcom Super Bowl ads heralded The End? Not to be a doomsayer or anything, but social commerce startups are in the game, or nearby. AllThingsD wonders if Groupon’s spot – added at the last minute when somebody backed out, likely for $3 million – will flop or pay off. Groupon’s using edgy agency CP+B for its creative, and the Super Bowl should be about branding rather than making a big, server-crashing offer. But we’ll see. Groupon was already in the pregame show, where it will be joined by number two daily deal site LivingSocial. LivingSocial seems to have done well by a massive offer that may or may not have been funded by Amazon, that’s got a big stake in the company. It says 40% of the 1.2 million takers came from viral passalong, but does that mean they were new customers?

The Business That Powers Local Social Media

“Local” and “social” go together like bread and butter. Add “mobile” and you’ve a trio of hot technologies that’s attracting capital from investors and big companies alike. For consumers, there are obvious synergistic experiences: mobility is local by definition, as are many social activities like physical-world shopping and going out for entertainment. But what’s the business that is driving this trio right now?

Smart Meters: Time for a Customer Service Reboot

Utilities, it’s finally time to come to terms with Bakersfield’s smart meter debacle. You would think that after PG&E’s experience no one would want to follow in the same footsteps,yet here we are all these months later witnessing a repeat of those events in Texas. Now it’s Oncore’s turn to deal with unwanted publicity and the cost of re-testing its meters. So what’s the lesson for utilities gearing up for smart meter installations? Simply put, the time has come to reboot your relationship with consumers. Here’s how.

Why Carriers Should Care About Customer Care

It didn’t take Nostradamus to forecast customer-service snags as Google moves into the very different — and very complicated — world of handset retailing. But last week’s stumbles illustrate just how crucial customer care is in an age when nearly all of us depend heavily on being connected at any time, any place. And they underscore the huge opportunity that exists for carriers to leverage their experience in dealing directly with consumers.