Dollars & Sense: Debating With the IoT Experts

This has been originally published on EBN.

Recently, I read an interesting article titled The Internet of Things: 11 Experts on Business Opportunities, which compiled opinions of 11 IoT experts about leveraging the various business opportunities in the Internet of Things space. I would like to have a virtual sit down with these experts and view their ideas from a macroeconomic perspective based on my recent book Sustaining Moore’s Law: Uncertainty Leading to a Certainty of IoT Revolution.

#1 Tony Fadell, Founder & CEO of Nest

In a guest blog for the Wall Street Journal on the future of Internet, Fadell said:

It took the telephone more than 45 years to earn a place in the majority of American homes. The Internet did it almost three times as fast. And yet, 4.4 billion people worldwide are still offline.  Instead of seeking it out, we’ll be surrounded by Internet in future. And instead of extracting data from it, we’ll be fed a constant stream of curated, personalized information to help us solve problems and live better—and live better together.

While there is no doubt that progress of Internet has been much faster than telephone, this has a lot of do with the lack of any industry monopolies in the Internet domain. In case of standard voice telephony structure, the monopolies in telecommunications industry lobbied the U.S. government and United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to keep international calling rates high.

The only free market approach to get more people online is to create an eco-system where the buying power of people grows in proportion to their productivity. While IoT would be able to feed abundant date to the end consumer, it wouldn’t make any business sense if that information is provided for free. To make the business of big data sustainable, not only should there be an incentive for the providers to charge the consumer by means of providing more and more data but at the same time, consumers should also have a good buying power to be able to afford pay for the personalized information. This needs a true free market ecosystem as well.


#2 Vala Afshar, Chief Marketing Officer, Extreme Networks

In a blog for the Huffington Post, Afshar writes:

All existing businesses must rethink their business models. Business models are shifting from discrete product sales, to recurring revenue models. Individual products no longer exist in a vacuum; interactions among devices from multiple sources and vendors must be understood and taken into account.

In order to keep the recurring revenue model sustainable, two things have to happen. First, consumer purchasing power in the economy should constantly grow so that these buyers can keep paying towards recurring revenue business models. Additionally, there have to be wide ranging reforms in financial industry, which encourage circulation of money and discourage accumulation of money. In this way, not only would purchasing power of majority in economy would grow but, at the same time, there would be a multiplying effect resulting in appreciation of the value of currency. For a healthy interaction between devices from multiple sources, it needs a deep collaboration between businesses with symbiotic benefits.


#3 Guy Kawasaki, Silicon-Valley Based Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur

In an interview with the Inc. Magazine, Kawasaki said “I want precise location outside of Bluetooth range. In a nutshell, I want Life360 for anything I stick a tracker on. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Kawasaki’s ideas about being able to locate outside of Bluetooth range can only succeed, if the supply chains that would usher in the IoT revolution can ensure thatthere is less to lose and more to gain by acting in the best interest of the supply chains. I discuss this in book Sustaining Moore’s Law in the chapter titled Design of Supply Chains for the success of Internet of Things (IoT).


#4 Chris O’Connor, General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM

In an IBM blog, O’Connor explained:

Any company wanting to transform using IoT data needs to fully embrace the cloud. And because most enterprises have already fully embraced the cloud, the next step, and the new killer application for the cloud, is the Internet of Things. The only way to ensure that the IoT is an enabler rather than an obstacle is to engineer new products, operate existing products and gather data from connected interaction with a holistic IoT strategy in mind.

In Sustaining Moore’s Law, I propose a wide-ranging macroeconomic approach to industrial policy (in this particular case, focused on the semiconductor portion of high tech, which is the foundation of all high-tech advancement and innovation along with ideas to make it feasible to implement the next big thing of IoT revolution.) Keeping a holistic IoT strategy in mind, my approach has been holistic in addressing economic, social, political, legal, and international trade issues in designing a robust ecosystem for IoT to flourish.


#5 David Pogue, Founder of Yahoo Tech

In an article for BizJournals, Pogue said “UberX and AirBnB take it a step further by connecting you to everyday people for rides in the family car and overnight stays in a spare bedroom. I will never use a taxi again in one of the Uber cities.”

The recent cases of rape and sexual harassment of women in India who have used Uber’s taxi services highlights the damage to the brand of any business when IoT based apps developed by one country are used in another country. This is similar to how globalization of semiconductor manufacturing has resulted in a national security threat for United States due to introduction of counterfeits. For IoT to truly prosper, IoT apps need to take into consideration the local economy, customs, and traditions and need to be able to comply with and enforce laws on local level. This is how IoT revolution could lead to local economic development around the world and would be able to connect nearly 50 billion devices worldwide in a sustainable way by year 2020.


#6 William Pence, Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, AOL

In an interview with Medium, Pence said:

To say ‘Internet of Things’ is obligatory, but in the context of advertising it’s very important. Look at the convergence of mobile and commerce — NFC and mobile commerce and embedded sensors and beacons — notifications and promotions and highly personalized commerce will be a big part of that. The time is not far off where with a mobile phone you will get deeply contextualized promotions.

A highly personalized commerce alongwith mobile notifications and promotions is only possible with an ecosystem where the businesses make their decisions based on local information in order to cater to local economic needs. This calls for a wholesome decentralization of an economy while designing the IoT supply chains so that local businesses are most aware of local economic needs and cater to these needs offering not only notifications and promotions but even a very personalized commerce.


#7 Tom Black, Vice President of IT & Enterprise Information Management, Eaton

Johnson Cornell University alumni and industry experts discussed Internet of Things. In this forum, Black placed his bet that startups companies will change the face of IoT. He said:

Users are using the Internet to manage their lives. The complexities have come in because there are so many silos of data from a consumer point of view. No one is going to want to have 15 apps to control 15 appliances. I can guarantee that there will be startup companies that bring that together.

I would second Black in his view that start-ups have a big role to play in success of IoT Revolution. The innovations come from start-ups and these innovations needs to materialize for benefit of economy at large. To create a robust growth of small businesses, major macroeconomic reforms have to undertaken.

The growth of small businesses also depends on purchasing power in local economy. The higher the purchasing power of people in local economy, the more in their confidence in investing in the economy which in turn leads to economic growth. These investments would create greater demand for goods and result in creation of new businesses that would cater to these needs.;

Additionally, start-ups developing apps to control a range of IoT appliances can be effectively only with deep collaboration in the IoT ecosystem and ability of each app to symbiotically partner with a single app developer. No small business would let its IP be reused for free.

#8 Robert Scoble, American Blogger, Technology Evangelist & Author

In an interview with Forbes, Scoble predicted what we can expect next with the wearable technology. He said:

We are close to a second wave where we are going to have sensors that more accurately watch your activity while watching what is going on in the web stream. That is really where developers are going to get lit up. There is a shirt company that is making sensors that go into your clothing. They will watch how you sit, run or ski and give data on that information. They are even sensors coming that will watch your blood glucose level.

This forecast points to the exploding business prospect of data management as well as data analytics. While an application developer can get a breadth of useful information and process that information to design several useful apps for the consumer, if the consumer does not have sufficient buying power, would he/she be able to afford to buy that personalized application?

No, unless global economy wishes to proceed on path of creating a debt-based economy, which has led us to present global macroeconomic crises. Hence, the IoT ecosystem should focus not only on the supply side of the economics but also on the demand side of the same to ensure that the resulting IoT revolution leads to a sustainable ecosystem.

#9 Brian Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, Golgi

Robert Scoble discussed IoT with Kelly over a homemade video mentioned in an article by Arkenea. Kelly suggests a potential fix for loophole in IoT technology:

When you are using the mobile device you are talking to a server that is accessible from anywhere but if you want to interact with a device that is in your home or enterprise that can be difficult to connect to. That’s not a secured location that you can just make an inbound connection just there. Those kinds of scenarios are not encountered by mobile app developers. In order to solve this you need something in the middle that both mobile and that device can connect to.

While Kelly’s ideas are thought provoking and could be materialized in a three-tier business model aimed at building robust growth of IoT sector. The other advantages of this model would be that it would lead to a balanced economic growth and result in a steady growth in consumer purchasing power in economy. The biggest macroeconomic advantage of the proposed business model is that it would comply with the macroeconomic cycles of nature avoiding huge unemployment to happen during economic downturns.

#10 Jason Silva, Filmmaker & Creator of Shots of Awe

In an interview given to the Inc. Magazine, Silva shares what captures his imagination in the Internet of Things space:

Technology surrounding us with useful information, like a kind of ‘engineered serendipity’. I’d like my smartphone to hear me when I say I’m hungry and recommend me a restaurant. I’d like to be serendipitously informed when a friend is nearby.

Silva’s thoughts reinvigorate the importance of preserving Net Neutrality for the success of IoT Revolution. When the smart phone recommends a particular restaurant, even a small business should have a fair chance to make it to Silva’s list of recommended restaurants. This would ensure a true free market competitive capitalism and elimination of all sorts of industry monopolies for success of IoT Revolution.

#11 Laurel Papworth, Social Media Educator

Papworth shared her views in Pew Research Center’s report about IoT. She expressed how IoT will bring the next revolution in digital technology:

Every part of our life will be quantifiable, and eternal, and we will answer to the community for our decisions. For example, skipping the gym will have your gym shoes auto tweet (equivalent) to the peer-to-peer health insurance network that will decide to degrade your premiums.

Laurel points to a very important role that would be played by IoT in ensuring fairness of the system. However, in order to make it practical, the global economy needs to transform from present individualized capitalism to a more collaborative capitalism where majority are the  stakeholders towards the success of the ecosystem rather than a few minority. The ideas presented my book Sustaining Moore’s Law would help design such an ecosystem and eventually materialize Laurel’s vision.


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