Last week, Cisco Systems (CSCO) once again tried to lay claim to the Internet of Things (IoT), and they put a huge number on it. Cisco CEO John Chambers said the Internet of Things is worth $19 trillion (yes, trillion), as I reported on CMSwire.com.
If it sounds about as over the top as a Michael Bay movie, it is. That’s a big number. And the market recognized it as hype. Cisco stock didn’t really move. Several industry analysts and contacts I spoke with viewed Cisco’s moves as marketing hype, with little near-term impact on business fundamentals.
“The $19 trillion, that’s a bit over the top, even for Cisco,” Needham & Co. Alex Henderson told me in a phone interview. “Does IoT and connectivity make sense? Sure. Does it have implications for the numbers for the next 2-3 years? No. This is something to think about in the next five to ten years.”
Chambers is clearly prepping a story for Cisco’s “Next Big Move,” and the Internet of Things (IoT) — which can be defined as things talking to themselves on the Internet — is clearly and opportunity for the company. It’s a deluxe buzzword, with lots of marketing activity and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) points. In some industry-specific quadrants, certain applications of Internet of Things are also know as M2M — for machine-to-machine communications.
To further confuse the marketing semantics, Cisco likes the phrase “Internet of Everything” and has set up marketing pages to that effect.
But let’s take a look at the deeper issues: Can you actually own “Internet of Everything” or “Internet of Things”? Cisco’s premise is that it established a dominant position in switches and routers with the growth of the Internet, therefore it is the premier supplier of Internet networking gear. But can they, in similar fashion, become the premier supplier of IoT or M2M technology?
The biggest challenge is that Internet-enabled technology is becoming pervasive and more commoditized across industries. IoT and M2M, after all, means that the Internet is everywhere. This makes it especially difficult for one company to own. For example, estimates are that 140 million of cars can be “connected” to the Internet in the next 5-6 years. Make no doubt about it, the concept of IoT and M2M will have a huge impact.
Let’s take the example of the automobile industry. Is that an opportunity for Cisco or others? Internet music services such as Pandora are benefiting from automobile Internet connectivity. A car manufacturer can also remotely monitor your car, collect data on it, and have a history of its performance or even alert you when something is going wrong.
In theses examples, the concept of IoT of M2M is really about enabling communications features of existing products, rather than creating entirely new product lines.
In music, for example, the connectivity plays into the hands of people who already have business models in that industry — Pandora, Spotify, Sirius, and iTunes. Or in the case of remote maintenance, IoT really an additive feature for car manufacturers. They could perhaps sell premium services or maybe generate more maintenance revenue for you. Sears and Audiovox, for example, are marketing Car Connection, a automobile maintenance tracking system.
Let’s take a look at the opportunities and applications in IoT and M2M being across more of these industry verticals:
Automobile Industry: Using the examples above, the automobile industry will try to sell premium connectivity services and accessories in applications for navigation, entertainment, diagnostics and maintenance.
Healthcare: Remote monitoring has huge potential in healthcare, and in the end it can actually save money by reducing medical visits. Many healthcare providers and telecommunications service providers are looking at new products for remote medical monitoring solutions.
Law Enforcement: No explanation needed. IoT on criminial tracking devices is already a big insdustry, with more than 60,000 criminals being tracked by satellite monitoring systems.
Telecom: Telecommunications companies are looking to get into various IoT niches, by either adding value-added communications services or buying promising niche services. For example, Sprint tried to get into the automobile by partnering with Chrysler.
Utilities: The utility market has been slowly working on smarter IoT applications for monitoring energy use and services, but it has been slow going. The Holy Grail is the true “Smart Grid” that gathers data from all energy consumers in real time and can instantly responds to supply and demand — that definitely hasn’t happened yet.
As you can see by the list above this is not one simple “market” in IoT or M2M. It is a market of many. And in the respective verticals, there are going to be skirmishes between people trying to get technology into the market and the existing incumbents.
The challenges for large companies like Cisco and GE will be to pick their spots and figure out which markets lend them a natural advantage to market new services or technologies. So, IoT and M2M to me is a market of many verticals. And while Cisco and others can certainly enter many of these verticals — it already has a nice foot in the door in the public sector — many of the industries will favor the existing manufacturers of gear in those markets.