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On September 28 and 29, 2015 I attended the Connected+2015 show at the MaRS building in Toronto. Billed as “the most comprehensive show in Canada for the IoT and the Smart Home,” it provided a showcase for products and services (and ideas) for smart devices and the connected-life.

The conference included keynote speeches, panel discussions, presentations and a workshop. More than 20 vendors, ranging from radialpoint to TrustPoint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, were there to show their products and services.

The session presentations were grouped around six topics: connected consumers, connected condos, connected health, home automation, smart energy, and smart security. The presentations I attended were not particularly technical, but I think largely just reflects the state of development in the IoT industry.

For me the show was an interesting snapshot of the potential of IoT and how the “connected world” in general will impact living in the decades to come.

Here are a few insights I took away from the show:

  • No one has really defined the “IoT business” yet – IoT, a very popular term, still means different things to different people (which is not uncommon in the IT business). For some, IoT represents a smart home door while for others it is a driverless car or a smartwatch. The vision is that everything will be interconnected and cooperating. This was illustrated by the wide range of session topics.
  • IoT does not have a single target market – The term Internet of Things (IoT) covers a wide range of devices, services and other components. Use cases exist in everything from wearables (health monitoring devices, personal digital assistants), to home and condo systems, or to electrical and industrial systems. There are (or will soon be) an enormous number of connected endpoints generating a vast volume of real-time data.
  • IoT has to be more than one thing – ecosystems are required – The world of IoT is not just devices, networks and clouds. It is a complex set of ecosystems many of which will need to interact. For example, a connected TV in your home might link to the vendor’s cloud for software updates, fault monitoring, and value added features (e.g., technical support). The same TV may also access the content providers cloud for schedules, on-demand services, reviews and even games. Finally, your TV may also connect to a “home cloud” to play videos, control environments (i.e., dimming lights), or deliver sound to an external audio system.
  • IoT has to operate on standards – No one company will dictate the architecture of IoT or make all the standards for every use case, and yet IoT standards should not be developed in silos. Standardization (including open source) is essential if IoT is to achieve its ubiquitous vision in an effective manner. Standards and best practices will be needed at every level from the physical interfaces to the application and management services. Agreements on security and privacy will be critical as well – would you want someone else controlling your TV? Many of the standards have yet to be written and research into requirements is ongoing. Two consortia on the forefront of IoT specification are: The AllSeen Alliance and the Open Interconnect Consortium.
  • IoT has to be intelligent – Connectivity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for IoT success. Billions of devices will be connected, mostly wirelessly, and they must be able to interoperate easily and reliably. IoT endpoints cannot all be dumb devices hooked up to centralized intelligent clouds; instead “smartness” must be distributed throughout the ecosystem.
  • IoT has to be green and energy efficient – With the scale of IoT and its pervasiveness across all of society, a new era of energy consumption will emerge – both for battery use as well as possibly for pollution. Many IoT devices may be treated as consumables that are rapidly replaced. With billions of endpoint devices, it is important that we don’t also end up with mountains of IoT garbage. Even now, the rapid evolution of smartphones shows us that re-use and re-cycling is important.
  • IoT has to be trustworthy and secure – Virtually everyone has some concern over how systems secure themselves, their users and the information they host. There are frequent reports of serious breaches, privacy violations and failures even with today’s “Generation 1” Internet services. Deployment of Generation 2 systems, which are based on both the Internet and cloud computing, is hampered by these concerns over security and privacy. These issues can be expected to multiply as IoT devices become embedded everywhere. Trust and reputation will become increasingly important.
  • IoT has to be cost-effective – Someone has to pay for the cost of IoT – not only embedding devices in everything but also the cost of data transfer, the cost of cloud applications, and the cost of other software. For example, who wants devices in the home “calling home” to the tech support cloud all the time? And how much times-series data will be transferred if there is little or no local pre-processing being performed? Needless to say, user comfort or convenience cannot be the sole justification for the roll-out of IoT.

One speaker indicated there is an explosion of activity in the IoT world, with many start-ups looking to stake their claims, much like the wild west of TV and movies. Another speaker said that currently only 5% of Canadian broadband households have a smart home device of some kind. There is plenty of room and opportunity for IoT innovations, if all the hurdles can be overcome!

I’m sure there were many other pearls of wisdom in my conference notes but I’ll save those for a future post.

This is what I learned – what do you think?

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