IoT Enables Variety at the Edge: An Interview with Devicify, Part 2

By Special Guest
Joyce Deuley, Senior Analyst and Director of Content, James Brehm & Assoc.
June 01, 2016

Leading up to LiveWorx in Boston June 6-9, James Brehm & Associates sat down with Scott Johnson, CEO, Devicify, to discuss the company’s recent pivot, the challenges happening in IoT, and how it’s going to come together in the future.

(Editor’s note: this is the second in a three-part series. Click here and here for the other parts.)

Deuley: There are many players that are calling for consolidation and standardization in IoT. What is your position on it and where would that lead us over the next few years?
Johnson: While there is advantage in establishing commonalities so that different products and vendors can interoperate, I’m not a big advocate of standardization in the common sense, especially at this point in the game. I’m a proponent for, encouraging a Cambrian explosion in IoT so to speak, that’s where we are going to discover the most from this. To consolidate that, and to make it monolithic, would be very limiting. More advantageous will be solutions that can standardize the communication, while allowing the rich variety to evolve in individual technologies, whatever it might be. I’m an advocate of more variety right now—it’s what’s going to lead to more opportunity down the road.

The simple fact that so many different things are going to communicate suggests more potential ways to do things, so I’m an advocate of figuring out how to harmonize, not standardize. The challenge is how we allow a wild fragmentation to still exhibit some semblance of consolidation—in the sense there’s a common way to interface, but there is no one way. There’s an elegant solution that can be found and the companies that figure it out that can encourage the variety, but distill it down to some kind of uniformity. That’s the true holy grail, not standardization and homogenization.

Deuley: When companies move past first generation IoT efforts, what are they improving or correcting for?
Johnson: Typically, we find that first generation products have focused on the “thing”, the product, which isn’t surprising. However, they are missing the context needed to make the efforts meaningful and therefore profitable. But, these still serve as a proof points to show that IoT is doable, as in we can generate some control or customer value in doing it, but companies then struggle in scaling it. First generation solutions were siloed and couldn’t operate with the world around it. We’re seeing more companies recognize they need to make products cooperate with their business. Business systems already speak in a certain language and companies are struggling to force those gen-ones back into the business. Those educated customers are great for us because our “business first, products second” philosophy establishes business objectives first and then allows the traditional IoT deployment path, second overcoming what these companies now know to be the hardest and most important part of the equation.

Deuley: What is the most common misconception about implementing IoT technologies?
Johnson: The most common misconception is trying to draw too many parallels to past experiences, in terms of what is the best development path. In the past, you came up with an idea and you started dabbling with it, in software and hardware, but the tools that are required and objectives to be achieved are different with IoT. For example, one of the areas that gets thought about too little in regards to IoT, is the marketing opportunity that goes with it. It’s not just about building cool stuff our customers can use or one more way to squeeze out efficiency. IoT is one of the biggest things happening in marketing since the printing press. The information that is being retrieved can indicate what our customers most desire—that opens the door for very targeted, very relevant marketing and sales behaviors in the company. That’s just one example of how it’s different. Companies that understand that IoT should touch every business function will be the ones that really come out on top.

Deuley: Streamlining IoT deployments is a hot topic right now. How do you think companies can improve their time to market?
Johnson: One way companies can streamline their deployments is by standardizing the interface to the business. If we’re relying on APIs across different silos, vendors or packages, we’re creating a potential rats nest that will become self-limiting. That’s one of the reasons that Devicify built an application that spans both sides of a normally separate solution, providing a nice pathway that provides uniform business interfaces while supporting rich variety at the edge. Also, if we’re only building in these new technologies for tomorrow’s products, that delayed gratification will slow down the fly-wheel affect. However, everyone’s racing to figure out how to tap into the install base and attach some intelligence or some accessibility to it so yesterday’s products can be rolled forward with gateways and sensors while building in a higher case of usefulness with tomorrow’s products. This will allow companies to achieve some customer value today while vastly accelerating learning and  business value. That’s why Devicify allows it’s customers to not have to  care if they build it themselves or they bought it, they benefit from the same uniform interface to model, manage, and monetize any end point at the edge. That ability will be instrumental in jumpstarting the process and simplifying the technology chain and providing longevity to today’s choices. Companies that can adapt and span their technology as their needs evolve will have a disproportionate advantage considering IoT years are more like hamster years.

Click here to read Part 1 or Part 3

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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