Why the real IoT opportunity now lies outside the home

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a big opportunity in the tech sector, with Gartner predicting that the number of IoT endpoints in the enterprise and automotive market alone will reach 5.8 billion this year. 

About the author

David Parry-Jones, Vice President EMEA and APAC, Twilio.

While smart devices in the home are proliferating, with tech titans like Google and Amazon taking the majority share in smart assistants, there is an untapped opportunity outside the home.

This space is too large and too diverse for a small group of big tech companies to dominate – which means opportunity for smaller, more agile players.

Issues with the ecosystem

The problem is, the global IoT connectivity ecosystem is fragmented, with multiple hurdles to overcome in order for any progress to be made. Global management of a cellular-connected fleet is tricky to say the least, and developers have previously had to grapple with these complexities before they can even begin building solutions. What’s more, the entry point for IoT development has historically been set high, with the up-front cost of product development inevitably running much higher than with software.

The good news is that new advancements have significantly reduced the barriers to creating connected products – meaning that the opportunity for IoT outside the home is now virtually limitless. Low-power wide area (LPWA) networks are vastly reducing costs in the US, and with this technology already being trialed in the UK, increased accessibility is heralding a new era for the connected object.

Today, everything is connected. Since the invention of the telephony network and the advent of the internet, this is the direction in which we’ve been headed. Now, with technologies like 5G and Narrowband IoT set to open up and accelerate the landscape of connectivity, there’s an even greater chance for developers to upend the dominance of big tech in the IoT space, beyond your average smart home device.

Disruption creating a new opportunity

Similar to the way the smartphone disrupted how consumers interact with the online world – with everything from buying a new pair of shoes to setting up a new bank account now contained within our phone screens – IoT will have a similar effect on the interaction with objects. 

With everything from rubbish bins to toothbrushes now being given smart capabilities, the value proposition for the things we buy is completely changing, and new players have the chance to enter the game. This is where developers come in – and, outside the home, is the territory that is up for grabs.

In the same way that the smartphone revolution gave rise to a new set of programming rules to integrate the online world with the handsets we carry, the IoT revolution is bringing a new set of possibilities to the fore. The smartphone created a gap for a new genre of companies – Twitter, AirBnb, Uber – to enter the market, and now smart objects will begin to do the same.

Developers are key

It’s developers who will be the key to unlocking this door. They are the key to creating a connected technology ecosystem, and IoT is simply the latest technology to join the circle, the latest piece of the puzzle. Now that the barriers to entry are lower and costs have reduced, programmable solutions allow developers to unleash their creativity on everything from micro-mobility solutions to smart waste management.

All that remains to be seen now is the next ‘a-ha’ moment – the next obvious solution to an ongoing problem. The possibilities are endless when you can so easily identify problems within our day-to-day interactions with the physical world – and the solution might be at our fingertips.

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