Transparency, immediacy and productivity: How IoT will rock your biz

The internet of things when applied to enterprises will take a lot of people out of business, will reduce the profitability of a lot of businesses and it will move massive gains to other businesses, according to Charlie Peters, senior executive vice president at Emerson, the process manufacturing firm. Peters came on Gigaom’s Internet of Things podcast this week (his remarks begin at the 26-minute mark) to share his thoughts on what the shift to a constant flow of information from a variety of places will mean for enterprises, and he didn’t mince words.

“It will be extremely disruptive,” he said. However, he saw that many of those massive gains will be made by startups because they will have the ability to move quickly. It’s a disadvantage to be a current participant because it precludes you from taking certain steps and slows you down when it comes to taking advantage of some of the changes that IoT can offer, he said.

He explained that the internet of things will bring three changes to the business: transparency, immediacy and productivity. Transparency lets customers and people inside the company get more information about what’s happening inside the business, be it about pricing or the status of a machine, while immediacy refers to the time element. That sensor data can flow to a plant operator in real time allowing them to take action the moment something slows down or even before it goes wrong. As for productivity, it’s not hard to see where this could increase productivity by helping automate decisions and let people take the information they are getting in real time and make decisions faster.

The challenge for any business in facing these shifts will be recognizing how to ride these changes while understanding how to maintain profitability. It’s easy to see how too much transparency can turn something into a commodity or how pushing productivity eliminates jobs, that in turn may cause social issues. Peters has this to offer business leaders worried about how to find their way to massive gains as opposed to being shut down during this next wave of innovation.

“Trod carefully and slowly because there’s a lot of land mines as you go through these things,” Peters said. “So you can kind of mess up and let your information which is maybe the key to the whole application out for free and kind of destroy the opportunity, so that’s the trod carefully. The trod slowly is there’s a lot of resistance, either from the other companies you have to partner with or for reluctant end users , where there’s a lot of inertia and until you get some pretty high levels of adoption some of these new business models don’t really work. And that’s where you have to expect to go slowly.”

For more of Peters’ thoughts — and he has a lot of good ones — listen to the rest of the podcast.

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Technical Machine launches new board and makes production easier

Technical Machine, a startup making a development boards for the internet of things, has launched a second generation product that has more power and better Wi-Fi. The Tessel 2 goes on sale today for $35 and will act more as a hub device mediating the inputs from a variety of sensors or other inputs. The board will ship in August.

Jon McKay, the CEO of Technical Machine, said in a few weeks the company plans to launch a lower-power version of a Tessel 2 board that will function more like a sensor device.

The idea of the board is to get web developers more accustomed to playing with code, comfortable taking their ideas for software and bringing them into the real world. With both Tessel boards they can now connect the web to a physical device — be it a sensor or something a bit more complicated like a display. McKay says companies such as Azure and SAP are using the boards in their data centers while other customers such as a doctor trying to prototype a wearable device and a company trying to increase insect protein production are also using the boards.

The companies building prototypes are a big market for the Tessel 2 and one that McKay is trying to better serve with this iteration. McKay designed the board to make it easier and cheaper to take it into limited production of a hundred to a couple thousand items, such as making sure that unused sections of the boards can be broken off to avoid wasting space, you can integrate modules into the PCB so they the connectors or more secure.

These efforts are part of several being attempted by companies in the burgeoning hardware sector to make manufacturing and prototyping easier. For example, when I covered the partnership between SnapEDA and Octopart I wrote:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]With the emergence of startups like the Toronto-based SnapEDA or the YCombinator startup Octopart, we’re seeing the evolution of hardware development that aims to be a bit more like software. Faster, more iterative and more responsive to the needs of a rapidly-changing marketplace. We won’t ever get to the speed of code, but it’s awesome to see the agility that’s common in software creeping its way into the hardware world as much as it can.[/blockquote]

With Tessel 2, programmers now can use these boards (currently they can program Tessel 2 in Node.js/io.js) to take their ideas for new hardware and turn them into reality without having to spent a lot of time learning a lot about hardware. The steps the Technical Machine team has taken to make getting prototypes to production easier means that the software developers using the boards get an even longer runway when it comes to learning about hardware. This will only help let good ideas mature a bit further and broaden the scope of what the internet of things will make possible.

Technical Machine is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.

Non-Microsoft Nokia launches Android N1 tablet with Foxconn

Here’s a shocker — Nokia, not to be confused with its former handset business that is now owned by Microsoft — has unveiled an Android tablet. And the details illustrate how Nokia will deal with the consumer market in the coming while.