The Internet of Things May See Huge Growth, So Companies Want in Now
More devices are expected to be connected at the end of the decade. Router-maker Belkin recently launched a new product line to get an early start.
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These days, users are aware of the exchange of their personal information and make a decision if what they get in return is worth the invasion. When it comes to the smart home, some people are willing to give up their data to save on utility bills, automate the garage door and avoid plumbing leaks, among other things.
Most of the things in our lives are not designed to save us money. Most aid in consumption. Your toaster reminds you to buy more bread, your coffee maker encourages you to get better coffee, your TV encourages purchases of more channels and more shiny discs.
The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, which describes a market of everyday objects and appliances with Internet connectivity, is going from novel to pervasive. Today, there are 1.9 billion connected devices, and that number is predicted to grow to 9 billion devices by 2018. Erickson predicts there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020.
Apple didn't invent smartphones, it made them pervasive, and that created a market where there had been none.
Google earlier this year purchased smart thermostat maker Nest primarily because it was the first company to make IoT have a value proposition.
Smart energy is going to depend on embedding technology in everything in the home, but consumers often own their appliances for years. Nest controls the furnace in a home, and that furnace may be 15 years old. Being able to upgrade without having to spend $15,000 to get a new furnace lets consumers enjoy the savings of smart energy without a huge initial investment.
One of the companies seeking to gain an early lead on IoT is Belkin, best known for its switches, routers and network storage devices. Its CEO, Chet Pipkin, has a vision for connecting all sorts of appliances to the Internet with smart modules, in a series of products called WeMo, allowing users to control home electronics from anywhere.
"What makes our point of view with WeMo a little more unique is that we're providing the actual devices to mar the Internet of Things right now and providing more devices and modules that serve as an onramp, where it takes existing appliances, and is able to on board them to the Internet of Things right here, right now," Pipkin says.
Belkin integrates a frugal value proposition to customers who want to save money. Taking a modular approach, WeMo offers a mobile app so users can control their home technology from anywhere, and program the home to their personal preferences. This gives WeMo the advantage of home-energy savings to the masses, without having to install expensive new systems.
By getting its feet wet with a broad-appeal product, and giving the developer community the tools to find ways to use the product in other solutions, Belkin reduces its costs in researching ways the technology could be applied.
Most venture capitalists and technologists agree that the age of IoT is coming, but to get consumers excited, early adopters need to prove the value proposition. Belkin, with its WeMo series of products, seeks to reach these early IoT adopters.
Cisco, a competitor to Belkin, released a report estimating IoT will be a $14.4 trillion market over the next 10 years. IoT is smart energy today, controlling Christmas lights with your iPhone tomorrow, and a refrigerator that knows if the milk has spoiled in the near future.