The ‘Internet of Things’ is already here, and it’s about to become ubiquitous. Unlike so many other tech buzzwords, it’s one that’s currently expected to live up to the hype, and then some.
In under a decade, IoT is set to trigger the next industrial revolution; one that’s already upon us, reports Business Insider Intelligence. With Big Business already scaling its IoT-enabled operations, the IoT market as a whole is set to balloon to a whopping US$6 trillion by 2020, states the report.
In many ways, IoT is primed for democratization, and promises to go beyond the evolution of modern-day conveniences, including refrigerators that can order groceries and have them delivered to your door. Already, big businesses like Virgin Atlantic, Farmers Insurance, and UPS harness IoT data to optimize their business operations. And soon, small and mid-size organizations will be in a better place to reap some of those same rewards.
An untapped niche
In 2015, the McKinsey Global Institute reported that the potential economic impact of the IoT will be span from $4 trillion to $11 trillion by the year 2025. By 2020, it’s anticipated that there will be as many as 30.7 billion trackers worldwide, but many of those trackers are expensive and bandwidth (via communications satellites) is expensive as well. Add to that the technological resources required to harness the acquired data.
“IoT is all about connections; connecting devices and then extracting data from each device,” explains Scott Larson, CEO of Helios Wire. “It’s about making that device or piece of equipment ‘smart,’ online, and connected. Most IoT devices are connected through cellular service, or Wi-Fi, or wired internet connections. However, much of the world doesn’t yet have those options available because many places are simply too remote for that kind of infrastructure to be established.”
Satellites can provide connectivity to the rest of the world, he adds — places where Wi-Fi isn’t an option.
“The problem is that up until recently, satellites have been expensive, hard to build, and hard to get into space. And as a result, satellite-enabled IoT has been equally expensive and difficult to use,” Larson explains. “This is where Helios comes into play. Helios is building a low-cost, easy-to-use product that will service markets that don’t necessarily need always-on connectivity, or the ability to transfer large data sets. Helios is positioning itself as a provider that increases accessibility, affordability and aims to be well suited to serve small-to-mid sized customers, not only governments and fortune 500 companies.”
The ability to provide lower-cost service with more accessibility is precisely what makes Helios perfectly suited for both large and small operators, but especially smaller businesses.
“At this low price point, we can open new markets,” explains Helios CEO, Scott Larson. “Our anchor industries are going to be oil and gas, precision agriculture, infrastructure monitoring, logistics, and asset location monitoring.”
Right now, because of the extremely high cost of launching satellites and acquiring spectrum, current IoT providers can’t afford to offer the accessibility and affordability that those small-to-mid sized operators require. To address this, Helios expects to be able to monitor up to 5 billion IoT devices, for as low as $1 per month.
“The end vision of the system is one that provides a medium-delivery, ‘good-enough’ service that is technically easy to implement,” says Larson. “In this way, we’re growing the market with a manageable latency and an open-source mentality,” he adds.
Today, store trackers tell corporations about our shopping habits; technology developed for malls can analyze us and determine how much money we make; our smartphones can track our health data and send it straight to practitioners’ devices; and giant delivery companies can coordinate their fleets. In these ways and many more, large corporations are already taking advantage of this IoT revolution.
At the other end of the spectrum is the farmer in India who farms one or several fields. In a democratized-IoT future, that farmer could place an inexpensive tag at transmission points throughout a field, allowing him or her to regularly monitor agricultural data points like soil temperature, pH balance and cattle count, while optimizing field usage by determining watering and fertilization schedules. That data, stored in the Cloud, could be included in a nifty app — apps that are already in existence — thereby helping those small-scale farmers make a better return on their investment and better prioritize their resources.
For those small-scale operators, what’s needed is a simpler solution that’s cost effective and easy to implement.
“Helios expects that the cost per data point, per sensor, will be just $1 per month, which aligns with existing terrestrial solutions,” explains Larson. “We’re also anticipating that customers will want a ‘good enough’ solution that doesn’t require significant infrastructure, which will allow for quick deployment at an obviously attractive price point.”
A democratized IoT is possible and it’s on the not-too-distant horizon — the future is now, as they say.