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Particle 2018 Predictions: What to Expect from IoT in 2018

VMblog Predictions 2018

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2018.  Read them in this 10th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Zach Supalla, founder and CEO, Particle

Front-page flops and silent successes: What to Expect from IoT in 2018

Trying to predict the future of IoT (even the very near future) is typically an exercise in futility. As a still nascent and ill-defined industry, disruption and tumult seem to be the only constants you can really count on. Nonetheless, I'm going to try my hand at divining the future of IoT. Despite all the uncertainty within our industry, I'm fairly confident that the following three things will be true in 2018:

1.) High-profile failures will negatively impact public perception of IoT and cast a wide shadow of doubt on the industry.

2.) Legitimate IoT companies will continue to (quietly) bring real, transformative value to businesses and society at large.

3.) As a result of this disconnect, the gulf between the public perception of IoT and the reality of IoT will widen.

Many of the high-profile, "groundbreaking" IoT businesses of the past 5 to 10 years have suffered sub-par performances, or all out failure. The Pebble smart watch, the infamous Juicero, and many more, have all shown that the IoT industry is susceptible to ill-conceived ideas and misplaced enthusiasm. Nonetheless, the overall excitement around IoT (particularly among investors) has persisted. But, in 2018, I foresee that enthusiasm finally wavering.

The consumer-focused race to create anything "IoT" has resulted in a litany of poorly-conceived, insecure, and often downright ridiculous products. As a result, failures have been abundant in our field.


Smart egg-trays complete with mobile app to ensure you always know exactly how many eggs are in your case you have a medical condition that necessitates emergency omelets.  

The Juicero "smart juicer" stands out amongst these products due to the firestorm of ridicule, and even outright rage, it's received on the internet. With its $700 price tag (now $399), and its inability to actually turn fruit into juice, the product has become symbol for all that is wrong with IoT. 

Even headline-grabbing success stories, such as Nest, haven't been entirely successful. Although they are generating revenues, they have yet to meet sales expectations and continue to underperform. And celebrity-level IoT-initiatives, like IBM's Watson, are now taking heavy blows in the media as well.


What is "shame", Alex?

It appears that IoT is approaching the downswing of its voyage along the "tech hype cycle". And soon the investment community will take note.

At the same time, however, a different type of IoT will continue to thrive and grow in relative silence. IoT's application in sectors such as manufacturing, transportation, and supply-chain management is quickly becoming ubiquitous. Businesses in these fields are already reaping massive business value in the form of increased efficiencies, reduced costs, and heightened visibility. And I'm confident that in 2018 we'll see even more industries join the growing list of "behind-the-scenes" IoT adopters.

Unfortunately, these applications aren't exactly glamorous. So, while the public awaits toasters that know exactly how toasty they like their toast, IoT is already changing the world in dramatic ways.

Opti, for example, is using IoT to make stormwater infrastructure more intelligent. Their devices actively and proactively coordinate the opening of sewage valves to minimize flooding, runoff, and environmental damage. Small, connected devices constantly monitor weather reports and current drainage conditions to determine which valves should be opened and closed. When heavy rainfall is imminent, the devices will automatically start to drain retention ponds and manage other valves, depending upon the expected location and volume of the rainfall. In this way, these smart stormwater systems are able to preempt, and largely prevent, the damage typically occasioned by heavy rains.


An Opti retention pond installation in Philadelphia

So, as devastating storms and historic floods dominate national headlines, companies like Opti are behind the scenes, quietly using IoT to actually do something about it.

It might take a while for the general public to recognize this different face of IoT. But I have a feeling it will happen long before those perfect toasters hit the market.


About the Author

Zach Supalla 

Zach is the founder and CEO of Particle, an IoT startup that's making it easier to build, connect and manage internet-connected hardware on an enterprise scale.

Zach launched Particle on Kickstarter in 2013 with the vision of making the Internet of Things easy and accessible. Particle has grown to have the largest developer community in the Internet of Things with over 125,000 engineers. Particle devices are used at 50% of the Fortune 500 and ship to more than 100 countries. Particle has been featured in WSJ, Forbes, Wired, Engadget, Fast Company, TechCrunch, the Discovery Channel, and many other publications. Zach has spoken as an authority on Agile Hardware and the Internet of Things at prominent events such as OSCon, GMIC, and Launch.

Zach earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and an MEM (masters in engineering management) from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern. Before Particle, Zach worked as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, advising Fortune 500 companies on strategy, operations, and product development. He is a graduate of HAX, the world's first and most prolific hardware accelerator.


Published Tuesday, November 07, 2017 4:31 AM by David Marshall
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