The Internet of Things becomes the Quantified Self

The Internet of Things may leave you filled with dread. It may leave you excited. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: it is going to change the world

Internet of Things

Image Courtesy: Hattanas Kumchai / Shutterstock

After years of empty hype, The Internet of Things is finally here – and it’s going to change the world. There are already more objects connected to the Internet than there are people in the world and this is set to grow exponentially over the coming years. From watches to wellness and smart homes to smart cars – the future is now.

When Google released Google Glass it was seen as an extension of the devices market, an alternative to a phone or tablet, but as innovation continues around it, it now appears to fit more closely into a new ecosystem which is developing around lifestyle monitoring and smart personal infrastructure, which covers wearables as well as intelligent homes and vehicles.

Despite the years of anticipation surrounding smart watches and the Pebble, by the time they were released onto the market it seemed they had already become obsolete. Why have a smart watch when the new must-have was the fitness band, measuring activity levels, sleep patterns and even predicting when you are likely to get ill. Apple looks likely to finally join the party this year with its much mythologised iWatch and recent rumours suggest it will incorporate watch, fitness band and broader IoT capability, marking it out as the next generation of wrist-worn devices. Consumers are now able to track more and more information about themselves with a simple wearable and an app, and this is just the beginning.

While app-controlled security cameras, home controls and smart lighting started to make their appearance on shelves to a mixed reception in 2013 it was Google’s US$3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs, the smart thermostat, smoke and CO detector company, in January of this year that made the everyone sit up and take note. We frequently see large tech companies such as Google and Facebook making speculative acquisitions, but US$3.2 billion goes past speculation to prediction: smart homes, smart security are going to be big.

Out on the roads it is again Google and Apple who seem to be doing battle, with Apple announcing its “iOS in the Car” initiative in June 2013 and Google following on this year with their Open Automotive Alliance in which they have partnered with car manufacturers including GM, Audi and Honda. Under both systems, the cars will not only work with the OS, for example to play music, but enable the cars to become devices in their own right.

Also Read: Could the iMotion change how we use devices?

The impact of the IoT will be wide-ranging. Initial beneficiaries are horizontal – manufacturers of key components such as semiconductors whose customer base is expanding rapidly as more hardware requires them to function. The second phase of development and adoption, which we are now entering, will see the vertical markets begin to benefit – such as software developers in the consumer realm and within the enterprise IoT, companies who will see processes streamlined and costs cut.

The early investors in the IoT sphere have, as we have seen, been the global Internet and tech companies, with Samsung being Asia’s prime mover. However, as the wide-ranging impact of the IoT on the global markets both horizontally and vertically becomes apparent, we are starting to see investors coming from those horizontal and vertical beneficiaries, such as semiconductor manufacturer ARM’s recent acquisition of Sensinode Oy an IoT software developer, and Unilever’s new incubation scheme dedicated to the Internet of Things.

Most recently traditional investment firms starting with the VCCs, who traditionally adopt a higher risk profile, have been turning their attention to new IoT technology: Zonoff, a software platform for the Internet of Things, just raised $3.8m from investors including Valhalla Partners and Grotech Ventures while Singapore’s Economic Development Board has identified the Internet of Things as a key area for investment to continue to develop Singapore as a global hub for development of and investment in technology and IP.

The Internet of Things will result in monitoring systems collecting data from our homes, our vehicles and even our own bodies – the “quantified self” where data is being collected on your lifestyle and choices around the clock. A world in which being “always-on” takes on a whole new meaning. This may leave you filled with dread, predicting a Terminator-style dystopia. It may leave you excitedly envisaging a future where illness is predicted and prevented, homes react organically to their occupants and you only ever see adverts for products you want. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: it is going to change the world.

Views are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them

e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested to share your point of view, please send us an email to writers[at]e27[dot]co

Lucy Berry

Lucy joined Olswang, as Associate, in 2013 and has experience working on a range of corporate transactions in the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific, with particular depth of experience in Singapore and Indonesia. Having worked in different jurisdictions, she understands the issues and practicalities of multinational and cross-border corporate dealings. Lucy is a part of Olswang's celebrated Corporate Group which received the Law Firm of the Year Award at the 2011 M&A Awards, and has worked on transactions from a range of different sectors including Technology, Media and Leisure. Most recently she acted for the buyer, Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc. on the purchase of the Asian Food Channel (AFC Network Private Limited).

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  • Daniel Maggs

    Without wishing to be rude, this article doesn`t say anything which hasn`t been said before and offers no original insight. Obviously, the primary purpose is business development for the lawyer in question, but surely e27 can do better than this?

  • http://litford.net/ brian

    Hey Daniel, we definitely appreciate deeper insights as well, and the IoT as an emerging topic certainly demands keener analysis and opinions.

    If you have something to add to the e27 community, we’d love to have your own opinions, and it’s something we can explore together with the editorial team.

    Let me know -)

  • Mohan Belani

    Good feedback Daniel. Keep it coming!

    I don’t think many people fully grasp the true potential of IOT and it’s impact and what it really means to startups or investors. You’re probably ahead of the curve, which is great. But I still sit with some people and they clearly don’t get it or understand why it’s such a game changer. I hope this article sheds some light there.

  • Daniel Maggs

    Mohan – thanks for your message. I certainly don`t consider myself an expert but have spent quite a lot of time looking at the wearable and next-gen device space. I think a lot of people are still trying to work out the implications for IoT, wearables and “big data”, one because the potential applications are extremely broad, and secondly because we are still early in the game, so there`s time to speculate. A big difference between IoT and the devices we use today is that whereas we are used to using accessing and providing information through defined terminals (computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.) as human “tools”, the IoT means that a whole host of devices around us are already gathering this data for us and for others. Data can be brought to us without us asking for it. There`s also an overlap with AI. For example, LINE demo`d a service in partnership with LG whereby you can “text” your home via the chat service to tell it when you are coming back, and then it will automatically set up and recommend actions for you such as cleaning the floor before you get back, starting the aircon at the right time so it`s warm when you step in the door, ordering missing items in the fridge…smart homes are just one part of the IoT. Equally you could have components which monitor themselves and each other and communicate as part of a manufacturing process.

  • Daniel Maggs

    Hi Brian – thank you and good question. I think the best way to write about the IoT is to choose an existing area of people`s lives and think practically in terms of how IoT etc. will affect it. If we talk about the IoT as this nebulous concept people find it hard to relate to their own lives, don`t get as excited as they should do and we end up speculating. The discourse on the IoT feels a little bit like the one on Big Data – to quote someone funnier than me:

    “Big Data is a lot like teenage sex. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”

    People will take a lot more interest in the IoT once they realise it has both major benefits and privacy implications. My guess though on the benefit side is that just like computing enabled us to do more work in less time but then work for longer, the IoT won`t necessarily provide us with an easier, relaxed life. We`ll have increased convenience but also overstimulation from interacting with so much data on a regular basis as part of / on top of the real world (whereas right now if you stop looking at your mobile or PC you can ignore it).
    Re: privacy concerns – for example, Google wants to provide the de facto software platform for wearable devices. Google owns Nest, which provides home monitoring hardware. Google wants to provide driverless cars and recently aggressively pushed into the storage space by cutting its costs below Box / Dropbox etc. So in the future if Google is able to break the payments market too they will basically know most of the things there are to know about you. Bar social networking of course – Google+ seems unlikely to take off.

  • Mohan Belani

    Nice insights there. The thing that excites me most about IOT is the idea that devices can ultimately communicate with each other, share data and get better on their own. A common communication standard that spans across all devices in the world, that continually learns and updates itself based on the user’s expectations.

    I like the LINE idea example that you mentioned, though I do remember someone implementing a similar system using Twitter, for his home automation.

    Regardless, this brings up a whole new world of opportunities for startups and investors. Exciting times!

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