IoT - Technology

RealWorld IoT articles in order

(Technology is now at the bottom of this page)

Realworld IoT is a salute to the use cases that affect (my) and other peoples lives and takes IoT from a buzzword that people hear about and say "why do I need a SIM in my fridge" to real cases that are successes on Kickstarter, where a product has got to market because people, you and me, voted with our wallet to make this IoT happen!

The realworld IoT is all about two things: 1) never turning back afterwards, and 2) Big data and "little" data

There is a lot of talk of IoT, and the term gets muddled a lot, products come out way before their time, others miss their day; then there is technology for technology's sake rather than IoT actually solving a problem, or having a pain of adoption that is too high.
Any device can be connected, but if it does not change our habits like a smart watch or smart phone then why?

There are two keys of what is and one things that IoT is not really IoT for me:

  1. Key for me is that if the internet connected device changes the way you see a product, and you will chose an entry level internet connected version over a high end non connected version, then the IoT has met its day. That is when the brand you have had 2, 3, 4 or more generations of device of and come to love, gets cast aside: The Rolex being spurned for a Garmin smartwatch is the best example of this for me.
  2. Its quality, not quantity: people, as with many things and IT is no exception, get hung up on it needing to be super huge gigabit data, connected to the cloud and robots (ok, the robots is a bit of hyperbole) but its just not the case. Forgive the pun, but one of the best examples of IoT for me is the Trakdot: A simple device that sends you but a single message telling you when your suitcase has arrived and where. I had this discussion recently, in reality they were whole workshops, on smart luggage, smart bikes and smart skis: There are two IoTs for me:
  • Lets call it Big Data IoT: this is the wi-fi, full fat bluetooth, 4G, 5G, fibre, gigabit always on, super charged, power hungry IoT. This is all about huge data, analytics, etc: Quantity where connectivity is almost a commodity. 
  • Lets call it embedded IoT: this is 2G, 3G, 4G as well, Ant+, Bluetooth low power: Quality data, where connectivity is a premium. 
If we take these examples to the emerging smart devices of Smart luggage, smart bikes and smart skis, it wen a bit like this:
  • Smart bikes: Big data is the telematics tracking power output, cadence, speed, gps location, etc. We expect this connectivity to be free, but we also recognise it will chew battery. The embedded "little data" is the key SMS telling you that the battery, which lasts months at a time, is at only 20% the day before your big ride, or that a stress detector has detected a stress fracture in your carbon fork the day before that huge alpine descent; which could save your life. People will pay a big premium for this.
  • Smart luggage: Big data is having a 4G hotspot in your luggage and the luggage being able to tell you where it is 24/7. Small embedded data is it telling you its landed in Paris 5 hours before you land in New York, so you don't wait an hour for your luggage to suspect its lost and then join a long baggage reclaim queue to get your bag 2-3 days later: you go straight to an empty baggage reclaim, who do not have to trawl a computer screen for two hours to see where your luggage is, so you get it the same or next day. Again: people will pay a premium.
  • Smart Skis: Big data is constant alignment, forces, angles, etc. maybe even better from your boot. But for me here its mostly about little data: a low power device that only triggers an SMS either when last last rock strike or jump created a stress fracture, your bindings went to 80% release on your last jump, or to say where your $1000 Skis are when you came off on the black slope and they go a few hundred metres down the mountain in opposite directions.

So what is IoT not? 

Well for me its not about technology for technology's sake, or models that require more data than they are worth, or finally where the pain of adoption is more than the need: we are creatures of habit and a mature adult can generally remember to buy milk. Milk is a also now a complex purchase: almond, soya, full fat, low, fat, lactose free, etc, etc... and who is going to process this data??? Don't get me wrong, a connected fridge is IoT, but it does not get me excited ... yet!
The pain of adoption v.s need of certain IoT concepts means they are further away than others
No matter how much you loved your Rolex, may even have been once your grandfathers: once you have had a great smartwatch... there is little turning back. The other end of the equation, for me, is still the smart fridge: yes you like it, its fun, and interesting, but when you get home and your (insert marque here) fridge has just the right type of ice you like and (insert other feature here) then you are not for turning anytime soon. This could change quite quickly.

Key examples to date of successful IoT have been:

1) SmartPhones (2007+)
2) Smart TV (2012+)
3) Smartwatches (2015+)
4) Smart sports trackers (2016+)

The Next wave of IoT smart we will chose over the brands we love are:

1) Smart Luggage (2016) blog on this in draft
2) Smart Bikes (2016) my blog on smartbike here
3) Smart Cars (2017?)
4) Smart Tablets (2017?)
5) Smart Homes 2014 see blog here
6) Whatever your Raspberry Pi3 is going to be (2016+)
7) Smart Skis (2017?) blog on this in draft
8) Smart Cities (2018?)

Smartphones and IOT

I was a fan of smart phones from the beginning, which was probably the Sony Ericsson P800, and used to email from my phone from the T68 and its precursor the R380 and R320, with which I started doing the first Converged Bluetooth calls in 2001 and won a UK Department of Trade and Industry Innovation Award for 2 years later in 2003. However we have to admit, that was a little ahead of the curve!

I then adopted using the N80 and N95 Nokia with sports tracker to track my runs and rides in 2005, and at Virtuser we built te first mass produced mobile apps, like the Nokia festival guides in 2006 which went on to be the Orange Glastonbury app...but again, way ahead of the curve. it was not until a year or two after the original iPhone that the mass market would leave their small, beautifully formed camera phones, for the lure of apps and games and internet on a navegable screen.

Smart TV

Smart TV's were around since 2009, however there was little content and only the early adopters had TV on demand. Make that Wi-Fi, and along come Netflix, etc on the content side, ChromeTV, Apple TV, etc on the device side and suddenly a non connected TV is, well very, very dim, no matter who made it, how curved or big it is...


It took a while, and they are still all mostly tethered to our phones... but once you have lived seeing your emails in meetings, only getting your phone from your pocket when you need to and only stopping on your run for the right call... there is no turning back to even the nicest, and there are some very nice, watches...

I had the Garmin 310XT, then the 910XT, then  the Garmin Fenix, the Fenix 3 and most lately the Fenix 5S, the first one which was truly smart really was the Fenix 3, as it was connected all the time and had the battery life and level of connectivity to do so (low power bluetooth and wi-fi and the battery would actually last with them on - the original fenix battery would not even go a day with bluetooth on ...)

Smart Tablets

Smart tablets is a difficult one, as a tablets is mostly as smart as your watch just by being tethered, however the point is that: Mobile or cellular enabled tablets are hands down better than wifi only tablets. Period. Don't even go there. The problem was they were always £100, $100, etc or more than their wifi only devices, with exceptions like the kindle that needed 3G to deliver ebooks.

These days will soon be over, and while the eSIM temporarily meant that mobile operator loyal retailers spurned eSIM tablets, the reality is that not only are they better, but with an eSIM, when you are stuck in a hotel with terrible wifi and can buy 4G in seconds, they are amazing. Unless they are very cheap, like my last iPad mini was £218 wifi only at the airport and its cell charged cousin was £400+, then that's it... but it still has been relegated to home use only.

And then there is when you misplace your prized tablet or it is stolen: I hate to tell you, but your wifi only one is probably never coming back, your cell enabled one however... is just too trackable for all but the determined / serial thief.


2014 Finally the year of the Automated Home
With products like Netatmo, the makers of many products you now see in your department store, brining our their first product, the weather station, Google bought Nest, the NAS went mainstream, home printers finally went wireless across all price points, and finally 802.11ac was approved to enable all these devices to be connected without bottlenecks, and finally the mass handsets needed like the Moto G took a grip on the market needed to control everything from the Sonos to your nest and netatmo then this was the year...

Christian Borrman, technologist

I am, by day, a technologist, mostly working in the mobile space, but also in IT, Broadcast and wider telecoms. This has been from helping everybody from marketing agencies to telcos and even mobile operators and mobile handset manufacturers themselves deliver complex mobile products, mostly in the following spaces:

Mobile apps

I have been working extensively in the app space, from designing and roll-out the first mass distributed apps for Nokia, to porting major titles to new platforms and commissioning apps for handset launch showcases.

Mobile App stores

When I first did apps, there were no stores, so we built an OTA system to send apps and the data settings to handsets, we still run the most advanced OTA data setting platform at Virtuser and I have built and worked on numerous app stores

Mobile Virtual Operators (MVNO)

I have worked on some of the first, biggest, newest, most expansive and diverse MVNOs and have been chairing the main MVNO conferences for the last few years. In general, there is not an element of designing, specifying, building or marketing an MVNO that I have not worked on.

Technology thoughts and posts

Technologists generally come in a few flavours:
  • software, 
  • hardware or 
  • design 
So the products they create and buy,  rather than a napolitan ice-cream 33/33/33 blend usually come in a pie chart with a strong bias, way or another, like the diagram below using laptops as the ubiquitous case in hand.
Focus of purchase decision (and Product development effort??) in different laptop flavours 

Good technology comes just how I like it: in a cocktail, shaken or stirred, with or without a twist, but most important is that these ingredients are blended to the appropriate amount, usually with some other ingredients, depending on time, place, and what else is going on at the time. That is, many great designs, software and hardware were the right tech at the wrong time or just the wrong ingredients, or sometimes just tried to be a dry martini when all that everybody wanted was a beer.

This directly translates from my other passion and page of blog: Innovation. Generally innovation is driven by design, software or hardware (people) who generally do not blend, step back, look at other ingredients or the appropriateness of the time, place and moment. This means even great technology often comes with important features like social networking just bolted on the side, like a spoiler on a car.

Most technologies we adpot because we have to, if we are lucky we adopt them out of choice, and this will depend on who we are and what we do with technology and can change over time. For example, a laptop for me has always represented freedom, the freedom to write this blog, to document a new business, search for and share information with peers and create new products and services. My choice of laptop is presently Windows, but that is more down to the industry I work than anything else and that may well and is changing. For others it represents the bind they have with the job they hate. Either way, my choice of laptop has generally been a compromise, whichever of the above I chose, as the blend is just not napolitan!

So assuming that Napolitan Ice Cream is a Nirvana seldom accomplished, for technology to succeed in long term uptake over its pain of adoption, or level of change needs to be softer than than the benefits derived, and this needs to continue being so over time, where all the above factors come into play. I earn a living from my laptop, so no matter how much of a pain windows and specification based on performance / price ratio, the risk and pain of changing will need a huge catalysts to change, but this is decreasing by the month: witness the shift from other OSs to iOS and then to Android in the mobile space.

We also have to take into account the time and place and other factors: apple had to compete and select a niche, which was design, Linux the same, windows is a throwback from the business move to the digital age via windows

Good technology affects us, has the best chance of surviving external factors, or ingredients to continue the cocktail analogy, and I believe usually does so on one of the following three ways that I will be exploring further in this blog in coming weeks, looking at examples in other technologies and areas:
  • Lifestyle technology: from music players to coffee machines...
  • General purpose technology: Mobiles, tablets...
  • Specific use technology: Heart rate monitors, GPS
Its interesting times, I shall be updating this article as more interactions with clients and colleagues provide more scenarios, and usually post sneak previews of what is next on my Instagram feed and / or the newer You Tube Channel so be sure to subscribe, follow, and of course like what you like as that steers me on new content.

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