The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

So Many IoT Organizations, So Little Time and Traction

By Arti Loftus October 29, 2019

With over 500 IoT platforms, dozens of Industrial IoT open source projects, multiple communities of interest, and thousands of companies working across enterprise applications, machine intelligence, AI, cloud platforms, device and data management, sensors, actuators, software, firmware, gateways, transmission networks, components, and more, the IoT ecosystem can feel like a real “echosystem” at times.

How can companies make wise decisions on where to invest their time, money, and other resources outside of their own internal development projects? Should companies collaborate with others based on technical requirements and a need to understand and develop against standards and protocols?

Should they invest in vertically focused community-based projects and testbeds, co-developing prototypes, contributing part of their code, contributing executive and developer time, hoping that befriending and working with other companies in the Industrial IoT sphere will lead to business engagement and profitable revenue?

How much should they investigate and engage in working with various transport options, from LPWan to IPV4, RPI, Sigfox, RPMA, and Cellular 2-5G, especially 5G for mobile Industrial IoT applications including smart cities, smart rail, autonomous vehicles and more?

Are highly technical communities, including IEEE, IETF, ISA, W3C, the Industrial Internet Consortium, the Linux Foundation’s multiple edge projects more important than organizations more focused on use cases?

We spoke with Eric Simone, a highly successful entrepreneur with an IBM pedigree, multiple startups in the software and internet worlds, and today founder and CEO of ClearBlade for his views, as a leader whose teams have participated across many “community based” efforts.

Never one to mince words, Simone said, “the fact is, IoT and especially Industrial IoT does require cooperation and integration given that it is highly unlikely that any single company will own every bit of IP and every asset required to deliver a true end-to-end IIoT solution. Success comes when there is a balance of truly differentiated technology and approaches, especially when it comes to wrangling the growing IoT edge, alongside components and services from third parties.”

Earlier this year, Simone was named to the IoT Community’s “Premier League,” which runs an online “leaderboard,” recognizing thought leaders based on the activity associated with their social media account. The use Kred scores to rank by influence score; Kred takes into account social media activity and engagement across many social networks including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Simone is among the top 100 IoT leaders based on this mechanism and is also part of the IoT Community’s business network, with a whopping 23,000 members worldwide.

“I appreciate what IoT Community contributes because, like our company, they are less interested in conceptual ideas and building rocket ships to the moon than they are in tracking, reporting on and developing visibility around real-world, commercialized connected systems that are happening now, and positioned in a practical way for growth.

Asked to rank the value of different types of industry organizations, forums, technical committees, open source projects, and more, Simone said, “They are all important because face it – Industrial IoT isn’t easy. There are more moving parts in an IoT system than there are in what we’ve grown up with, including machine-to-machine legacy implementations to newer systems that blend machine and human communications, which adds yet another layer and requirement for integration than we could have imagined a few decades ago when the internet started to take off.”

Simone and his company have been active members across many organizations, as they are intensely focused on engineering and innovation, not satisfied with the status quo, especially when it comes to the need to harden security while also enabling scale, which Simone sees as the “true future of Industrial IoT – our cities are becoming similar to smart factories, our transportation infrastructure is becoming increasingly digitized every day, and our connected homes are no longer within a physical perimeter as consumers adopt recurring services from the companies who sold them their smart refrigerator, security system, or doorbell. These are all highly distributed systems that need to work at the very edge of the network, while also playing nicely with cloud and the kinds of applications cloud models support.”

“It’s not just a good idea to interact with other engineers and product developers, but to also forge alliances with those running the business as getting the economics right is absolutely imperative to succeeding,” Simone said. “The key is to be very, very selective about the organizations you join, sponsor, engage with, and otherwise contribute to. While we’ve learned from every one of the community-based organizations we’ve been active with, the range of value the have brought to the rapid evolution of ClearBlade has been broad, to say the least.”

Without naming names, Simone said that the best way to avoid the “echosystem” or “echochamber” (lots of companies and people talking to each other in a vacuum) is to analyze the mix of members and take a good, hard look at their successes.

“This gets especially tricky with open source, as initiatives often start out with good intentions, but get lost very quickly, especially when there is no clear acceptance or alignment of self-serving goals,” Simone said. “Especially for start-ups, joining groups can be very tempting as they work hard to become known and relevant in a very fragmented and noisy Industrial IoT world. With a limited number of people, including engineers, it’s very important for them to understand what a time sink joining committees can be. We have arguably the top IIoT engineers in the business, and while they are constantly watching the industry and especially standards, protocols, frameworks, and new products coming out, we have been extremely successful when we apply their time to collaborate with our clients and partners.”

While Simone stopped short of saying that most IoT/IIoT organizations can be a waste of time, he did say “when it’s important to integrate components, before you make a commitment to paying the fee and dedicating the time required to make the financial investment in membership or sponsorship pay off, analyze this in the context of what your business has to accomplish. Connected systems are so fascinating, so endlessly creative, and have so much potential that it is not difficult to follow the siren song of a group of often super smart people who live in a world of ideas. We live in a world of ideas, too, and we do so with a limited number of community-based organizations, but we thrive in the world of getting real world software and systems built in the real world, and our implementations are getting larger and more distributed with every deal we sign. We have true pioneers on our team, working with brilliant clients who bring their hardest problems to us, which we turn into their biggest opportunities. That is our favorite laboratory, but there is no team who enjoys getting together with other market leaders especially at the strongest and most serious conferences and events.”

Simone says one of his favorite ways to give back to the community – along with his CTO Aaron Allsbrook – is presenting at these conferences. “We’ve met the most amazing people on the panels we’ve been a part of, and by osmosis have absorbed so many fine ideas including cautionary tales, because truth be told, some inventions in the IoT and Industrial IoT just fail. Sometimes the most productive conversations we can have as a community are born out of mistakes, and we learn from those collectively, that’s when we can drive things forward faster.”

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Special Correspondent

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