Startup Time for the Internet of Things
Last month at the ARM TechCon 2013 conference ARM announced their plans to drive the Internet of Things forward. ARM is the processor design company for mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, where they dominate with more than 90% market share. With forecasts that the IoT will host 10s of billions of devices, ARM’s interest in extending their mobile leadership to the IoT market is clear.
Replicating their historically successful mobile strategy, ARM will create an ecosystem of standard IoT technology that enables their partners/customers to quickly design and deliver low-cost IoT devices. The initiative is based on mbed (www.mbed.org), ARM’s platform for fast prototype development. The emphasis on speed-to-market fits with the Gartner Group’s prediction quoted in the announcement: “Our research says that by 2018, 50% of the internet of things solutions will be provided by startups which are less than 3 years old.”
This prediction foresees an IoT populated with yet unknown devices and services from yet to be crowd-sourced and kickstarted startups. It may sound farfetched, but consider the way standard mobile platforms fueled explosive growth in the smartphone and tablet ‘App’ business, and yes, much of it at the hands of startups. It could happen again with IoT.
But, why “startups less than 3 years old”? And how?
Until now embedded technology for the Internet of Things has been mainly applied as an enterprise solution. But consumer applications are growing and will likely exceed those of enterprises within the next few years.
The key, as reflected in the ARM announcement, is a simple and rapid prototyping environment accessible to all that leverages the existing Internet and smartphone/tablet infrastructure. Anyone who has innovative idea, even those who aren’t technical experts, can develop prototypes easily based on standard and open IoT hardware and service platforms. This lowers the barriers to entry for startups.
There are also startup-friendly changes occurring with manufacturing itself, such as 3D printers, which are heralded as the third industrial revolution. Ditto for business formation and operation where crowd funding and online sales channels give startups a chance, bringing entrepreneurial democracy to all.
So what do semiconductor vendors need to do support the emergence and capitalize on the growth of IoT?
First, make it easy for developers to utilize your technology in their solution. Provide reference designs, low-cost evaluation boards and useful software development kits covering a wide range of usage scenarios. Give developers the support they need to quickly develop prototypes and then launch into mass production on a moments notice.
Second, create online forums and communities that encourage sharing of knowledge and open-source software. Plan to support major open source platforms (such as mbed) to insure that your technology is available to the broadest possible user base.
Finally, when assessing a particular opportunity related to the Internet of Things, examine the viability of the service or app first, notably how well it integrates with other IoT devices and services.
Many IoT solutions will originate in innovative startups. Actively search them out and nurture them. Working together both sides will be able to achieve success that neither could alone.
YB Lee, CEO of WIZnet, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov. 19, 2013