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In-depth: Top 10 Internet of Things companies to watch

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Who is leading the way in the industrial and consumer Internet of Things markets?

“Internet of Things” technology – connecting every possible device, object or thing to the Internet – promises to be one of the biggest economic revolutions since the Industrial Revolution. Numerous companies recognizing this growing potential are looking to embrace IoT and cash in on what – in five years – could be a multi-trillion dollar market opportunity.

In this in-depth report, RCR Wireless News takes a look at 10 of the leading global IoT companies. As IoT is such a complex and multifaceted subject area, this list is divided by companies based on their slant toward either the consumer or industrial IoT space.

Industrial IoT

Industrial IoT is geared toward macro scale solutions like smart cities, cargo tracking, precision farming and asset management. This list considers how much companies are spending on IoT, as well as how much of their business model revolves around the industrial IoT.

IBM: IBM has sunk $3 billion into its IoT business and has partnered with AT&T to deliver industrial IoT solutions across a range of issues from energy efficiency to healthcare services. Bob Picciano, SVP for IBM Analytics, explained “Our knowledge of the world grows with every connected sensor and device, but too often we are not acting on it, even when we know we can ensure a better result.”

IBM’s well-known machine learning platform Watson is a big part of IBM’s vision of the IoT world. The super computer renders actionable insight from massive amounts of data produced by IBM IoT sensors at a pace no human could ever match.

AT&T: In order to function, the “Internet of Things” relies on wireless broadband connections and AT&T sees IoT applications in a number of verticals as the natural next step in the evolution of the company.

Unique among American carriers, AT&T has formed an IoT business unit and partnered with multiple companies to provide IoT network infrastructure and its own big data analytics. AT&T has also opened several IoT Foundries, focused on IoT research and development.

Glenn Lurie, CEO of AT&T Mobility, said at a recent event in Washington, D.C., “We only got into this space eight plus years ago and we saw that everything in our lives was going to be connected.”

Some of AT&T’s IoT initiatives include smart city systems, cargo tracking and even outfitting every John Deere tractor manufactured with a cellular modem.  

Cisco: Cisco is a well-known software and hardware manufacture whose CEO Chuck Robbins has announced the company will begin to focus heavily on meeting the demands of the IoT economy.

Robbins told the press earlier this year “Everything we build will be programmable.” Cisco is looking to secure a niche as an adaptive provider of IoT solutions for industrial systems, including a partnership with Fanuc America, which has 300,000 industrial robots in factories using Cisco products.

In November, Cisco and Ericsson announced a global partnership tying together their platforms to target telecom operators and reportedly produce at least $1 billion in incremental revenue opportunities for each company beginning in 2018. The partnership is said to offer a platform including routing, data center, networking, cloud, mobility, management and control, and tap their respective global footprints to “create the networks of the future.” The companies said the network support is to include “5G,” cloud, IP and the “Internet of Things,” and Ericsson and Cisco will provide teams to jointly work on an initiative targeting software-defined networking, network functions virtualization, and network management and control.

General Electric: In its history, GE has done everything from manufacturing light bulbs to running a financial investment division. Currently, GE is one of the leading manufactures of heavy industrial machinery and, as such, an ideal company to look for ways to leverage the “Internet of Things.”

GE’s IoT software platform Predix is designed around integrating machine generated data to cloud computing platforms, allowing GE clients to leverage big data for everything from hospital operations management, airline fuel optimization to electrical grid management. GE’s pre-existing relationship with many firms leveraging IoT positions it as a major player in the industrial IoT economy.

According to GE, “Forward looking companies have begun to embrace the industrial Internet to drive new performance highs and generate value like never before. They’re leveraging connectivity and analytics to achieve their business priorities – whether it’s increasing throughput, improving product quality, driving resource efficiency, shortening response times or other valuable outcomes. GE can help get you connected with your machines and industrial big data.”

RTI: Real Time Innovation is a relative newcomer, having been founded in 1991, but is the only company whose entire business is built around industrial IoT. Despite only having 100 employees, the company says “Our customers span the breadth of the industrial IoT, including medical, energy, mining, air traffic control, trading, automotive, unmanned systems, industrial SCADA, naval systems, air and missile defense, ground stations and science.”

RTI has been given top ratings by Forbes and CIO Review. The company’s IoT solutions and services run the entire gamut of the IoT needs from design to implementation. For instance, RTI recently partnered with Alencon Systems to provide the solutions needed to collect and analyze power grid data, among other metrics.

“RTI is working with organizations like the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel and Industrial Internet Consortium to demonstrate the use of DDS as the data distribution protocol for next generation energy systems,” said David Barnett, VP of products and markets at RTI. “Alencon Systems is already leading the industry by implementing DDS into their energy conversion architecture. We look forward to working together on modernizing the power grid for the intelligent industrial IoT systems of the future.”

Consumer IoT

In the challenging consumer “Internet of Things” market, these five companies are working on IoT products designed to appeal directly to consumers with solutions like smart homes, connected cars and wearable. In addition to providing the right form factor, these consumer IoT companies must provide value services that leverage the data consumers generate through IoT systems in a meaningful way.

Amazon: Amazon.com, which started as an online bookseller and turned into one of the most important hosting providers in the world with its Amazon Web Services company, provides macro IoT solutions as well as a number of products directly targeting consumers.

The voice command device Echo is being positioned as the hub of smart homes; it connects to a voice-activated cloud-based information service called Alexa.

According to Amazon: “Use Echo to switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or space heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie – all without lifting a finger … or even raising your voice. Echo works with devices such as lights and switches from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon and Wink. Starter kits are available for easy setup.”

Amazon is also putting devices into consumers’ hands with its Fire Phone, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. With its massive data repository and service provisioning to millions of consumers each day, Amazon promises to be a force in consumer IoT software and products.

Google: The ubiquitous technology giant is often synonymous with forward thinking innovation and the “Internet of Things” space is no exception.

While also active in industrial IoT, Google has a strong position in consumer IoT from its Android system, its efforts in connected cars and wearable technologies.

Although the Google Glass has so far eluded the mass market, Google has redoubled its efforts on consumer IoT through a $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs in 2014, a company focused on smart home systems. Nest is a pioneer in the smart home market segment with its Learning Thermostat and Protect carbon monoxide detector.

As for connected cars, Google has been testing various autonomous driving configurations for nearly seven years with almost two million road miles driven.

Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car program, emphasized how autonomous driving would bolster vehicle safety. He counted 33,000 deaths on American roads each year and 660,000 drivers distracted by mobile devices behind the wheel at any given time.

“With 360-degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times,” Urmson wrote, “our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields.”

Samsung: Samsung is well-positioned in the IoT consumer product space due to its role as one of the world’s leading consumer electronic manufacturers.

Samsung smart TVs now come enabled with the ability to turn on and off based on programmed parameters and make programming recommendations, among other features.

Last year Samsung acquired IoT company Smart Things, and building on that acquisition released a smart home IoT SmartThings Hub. That devices shares information from your smartphone to all of a consumer’s compatible, connected products across wireless protocols. Management is streamlined into the SmartThings app.

Samsung President Boo-Keun Yoon recently noted “I know in my heart that neither one single company nor one industry alone can deliver the benefits of the ‘Internet of Things.’ To create this IoT universe, we have to see the potential of the ‘Internet of Things’ across all kinds of industries. Only if we work together can we improve people’s lives.”

Apple: Apple doesn’t make a huge array of hardware, but the devices it does manufacture hold a special – almost occult-like-place in consumers’ hearts.

In the personal wearable segment, Apple is betting big on the Apple Watch as the catalyst for widespread wearable-based IoT adoption. Sales were strong out of the gate, but faced an immediate decline with many industry watchers chalking that up to the device serving as little more than an accessory.

But, Mitch Black, president of Mobi Wireless, told RCR Wireless News Apple Watch applications will arise as a function of ambitious developers.

“Apple’s model is to build a platform and let the market (developers) create the compelling content,” Black said. “With that in mind, Apple Watch is a platform. People can’t see the value yet because there are no more than a handful of apps available. Think back to when the iPhone and iPad were released. If there hadn’t been an explosion of third-party applications that followed, both would have been mildly interesting but ultimately commercial failures.”

In the connected car segment, Apple’s CarPlay connects iPhone-based applications to a head unit in the vehicle creating a seamless user experience.

Microsoft: Microsoft is approaching IoT from both a platform as a service space, and from a hardware perspective. In May Microsoft announced it will license Windows 10 for free on systems with screens smaller than nine-inches; this move will allow developers to potential come up with services that could create both customer value and business value.

Similarly, Microsoft’s Azure IoT suite, which the company calls “A cloud-based offering with preconfigured solutions that address common ‘Internet of Things’ scenarios, so you can capture and analyze untapped data to transform your business.”

The company also has a Microsoft IoT team exploring numerous smart home and other consumer-facing solutions in part through its popular X-Box gaming system.

In a recent blog post, Jerry Lee, Microsoft’s director of product marketing, Data Platforma and IoT, discussed the company’s “Internet of Things strateg.”
More and more, companies are reaping big rewards from their investment in the ‘Internet of Things.’ Those who remain on the sidelines often ask when, or if, their business should jump into the game. Making a case for IoT might seem like a moonshot when the question involves getting board approval for a project that might take six months, or could take three years. To get the most [return on investment]from an IoT initiative, we’ve found that building a predictable timeframe from initial investment to rapid completion makes sense to even the most cautious decision-makers.”

 

 

 

About Author

Jeff Hawn

Contributing Writer
[email protected]
Jeff Hawn was born in 1991 and represents the “millennial generation,” the people who have spent their entire lives wired and wireless. His adult life has revolved around cellphones, the Internet, video chat and Google. Hawn has a degree in international relations from American University, and has lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Russia. He represents the most valuable, but most discerning, market for wireless companies: the people who have never lived without their products, but are fickle and flighty in their loyalty to one company or product. He’ll be sharing his views – and to a certain extent the views of his generation – with RCR Wireless News readers, hoping to bridge the generational divide and let the decision makers know what’s on the mind of this demographic.