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“Corporates must help stop us creating an Internet of Useless Things”

Raph Crouan is the founder and MD at London’s Startupbootcamp IoT, part of the global network of industry-focused startup accelerators with programmes across the world

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is most commonly defined as “’and actuators connected by networks to computing systems’. Essentially, bits of technology enabling things to send data.

In the past few years, this technology has become cheaper and more accessible, and as such the potential value of it when applied to industries or businesses has risen.

From streamlining internal processes and operating systems, to creating additional revenue models, it’s no wonder that the IoT is on the agenda of most technology companies today.

As in other fast-growing industries, it’s startups that are driving several of the recent advancements in the IoT, but many face big operational challenges such as manufacturing costs or supply chain issues.

As for those working within industry 4.0 (where an organisation’s manufacturing technology uses automation and data to operate) they face the added hurdle of integrating services and hardware into legacy systems that have existed in companies for decades.

The IoT’s promise of reduced future costs does little to temper the fear that many companies have on the reliability and longevity of IoT solutions and the providers behind them.

In order to support this growing ecosystem I run an IoT focused accelerator called Startupbootcamp IoT | Connected Devices, which aims to provide startups with the right tools and connections they need to scale.

It’s about building a network with them, something that is vital when addressing the IoT and hardware market, particularly given the longstanding partnerships that are required with both manufacturers and investors.

Backed by corporate partners including Cisco and Premier Farnell (the largest maker of Raspberry Pi, recently acquired for $871 million), our three-month programme, which begins this September, provides the 10 selected startups with finance, mentoring, lab space and connections with key global players in the market.

Big ideas

In the past three months, we’ve received more than 425 applications from startups in 61 different countries wishing to join the programme.

For an accelerator that is highly focused on one vertical, this is a sizable amount and goes to show how much work is being done on IoT devices right now. Looking at our applications in more detail there are two early insights that I think are most interesting.

The first is that around 75 per cent of startups are working on a consumer device (wearables, the connected home or assisted living), with the remaining 25 per cent focusing on industrial IoT (smart manufacturing, energy or retail).

The former figure is perhaps unsurprising given IDC’s recent figure that suggests worldwide shipments of wearable devices alone are expected to reach 102 million units by the end of this year, a 29 per cent increase on 2015.

The latter area offers the most intrigue though, with smart energy and smart retail being two key enterprise areas our startup applicants are focusing on.

In the coming years, we expect to see the difference in this percentage split decrease dramatically.

Hype cycle

If you look at Gartner’s hype cycle on how emerging technologies will affect an organisation, our expectation of consumer IoT products, such as wearables, is starting to decline.

Combined with this, larger companies are placing more focus on Industry 4.0 and startups are beginning to answer this call.

The second insight of note is the route to market that many of these IoT startups are taking. While those working on wearables are taking the direct consumer route to market, either through an early crowdfunding campaign or with distribution partners, many of our startups applicants are taking the B2B route.

As the IoT market begins to mature, this makes a lot of sense.

Startups need the support of industrial and corporate partners to help not only in distribution and scale, but also in education and product lifecycle.

The IoT is currently a big buzzword, but in order for us to reach its potential, it needs startups and corporates to work together to create solutions that tackle mainstream issues.

We cannot let the IoT become the Internet of Useless Things.

NS Tech’s guest opinions are an opportunity for expert and interesting people to put their views to the test. They do not necessarily represent the views of NS Tech