Date
18 October 2017
Comcast is one of the earliest adapters of internet of things through its NBC unit. It delivers services wirelessly through various connected devices. Photo: NBC
Comcast is one of the earliest adapters of internet of things through its NBC unit. It delivers services wirelessly through various connected devices. Photo: NBC

Here’s the killer app for internet of things

Imagine everyday objects that “talk” to each other by wireless internet.

It’s an idea whose time has come. They even have a name for it — internet of things (TOT).

The thing is TOT has been around for already quite a while.

And contrary to expectations, it is not just a bunch of devices that have a chip and an internet connection, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The killer app of TOT is services.

These are being delivered by an unlikely cast of characters — Uber Technologies Inc., SolarCity Corp., ADT Corp., and Comcast Corp., to name a few.

One recent entrant is the Brita unit of Clorox Corp., which just introduced a Wi-Fi-enabled “smart” pitcher that can re-order its own water filters.

Uber and SolarCity are interesting examples. Both rely on making their assets smart and connected.

In Uber’s case, that is a smartphone in the hands of a driver for hire.

For SolarCity, the company’s original business model was selling electricity directly to homeowners rather than solar panels, which requires knowing how much electricity a home’s solar panels are producing.

 On June 23, Comcast said it would acquire a unit of Icontrol Networks Inc., which helps set up smart homes for clients.

The company, founded in 2004, prides itself on being “do it for you” instead of “do it yourself,” as are most home-automation systems, says Chief Marketing Officer Letha McLaren.

Understanding that most people want to solve problems without worrying about the underlying technology was crucial, she says.

“Early on, we found that if you called what we do ‘home automation,’ people liked it but they would not spend money on it,”  McLaren says.

“But if you called it ‘peace of mind’ and anchored it on home security, then people knew they need to have that and would spend US$35 toUS $45 a month on it.”

Contrast that with Alphabet Inc.’s Nest unit, which sells a smart thermostat and smoke alarm, both of which operate primarily as isolated devices, rather than as components of a larger service.

When internet-connected devices are considered a service, consumers don’t have to worry about integrating gadgets. Focusing on services also helps vendors clarify their offerings.

“You don’t think of Uber as connected cars, you think of it as transportation as a service,” says Ajay Kulkarni, co-founder and chief executive of Iobeam, whose technology helps device makers analyze the data their products generate.

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