Is IoT “the next Apple” for the world of Technology?

To start, this blog post was created after reading one of the many great articles from Kara Swisher.  If you are a fan of technology, you need to read her stuff … 

For those of you who are under 21, this will end up being a bit of a history lesson, as you likely don’t remember what life was like without Apple being one of the most dominant companies in the world.  To you, life always revolved around iPhones and iPads. 

Going back to the late 1990s, there was actually no guarantee that Apple would even survive as a company.  However, the team at Apple helped to launch many key new areas of growth for the entire world of technology (including legal streaming music, the emergence of the tablet and most importantly, the building block called the iPhone that launched key apps like Uber, Yelp and more).  Sure, Apple was far from the only company working on these things (Google and others played a big part), but they really were the catalyst to many key growth areas in technology over the past decade. 

Fast forward to 2019, and the “shine” is definitely off of Apple.  You kind of got to see that when value investor Warren Buffett took a big stake in them.  They are still one of the most dominant companies in the world, but I don’t think anyone expects them to lead the next wave of technology development anymore. 

So, that brings up a question … what is going to be the next catalyst for Technology growth?  My vote is that it will be IoT, and here is why: 

Breadth of growth possibilities 

The iPhone was far from just a consumer device, although, that is where a lot of the technology that leveraged the iPhone played.  It played a key role in the further expansion of Corporate E-mail, as well as businesses moving phones into the mainstream of their IT offerings.  Similarly, IoT has the possibility of huge growth in both the consumer and corporate markets, something that not all technology advancements offer.  It will power things like Autonomous driving, AR/VR and the advancement of robotics. 

Chance to change people’s lives 

Yes, you will hear people telling you how Uber has changed their lives, but has it really?  I think it has helped to increase how easy it is to ride-share, but people lived well without it.  IoT may be different, as it helps keep people safe and healthy so much more, it truly can be life-changing.  In terms of business, its power to save money and increase productivity cannot be overstated as well. 

Easy to understand and solving a real problem 

Too many pieces of technology fail because of two reasons … people cannot understand how to use it and they don’t see a value.  Apple products generally excel in the first area, allowing other companies to create the second part, so it worked well.  IoT stumbled at first in both areas, but the development of platforms like Alexa/Google Home are making IoT easier for the masses.  This has led (and will lead in the future) to more investment in solutions that solve real life issues. 

Infrastructure is almost here 

Today’s backbones for IoT are good … Wi-Fi and 2G/3G/4G served as good ways to connect devices.  CAT-M and 5G (for the right applications) are better, and this should increase the level of complexity and usability of solutions.  As an example, the lower latency that is offered by 5G will open up IoT to many applications that could not use wireless in the past. 

In short, IoT has all the makings to be the focal point of much of the new technology development for the next decade and will easily replace Apple’s lineup today.  It will be interesting to see how many Trillion dollar companies come out of this IoT growth … 

5G: “Do we need to build a wall?”

As I write this, the US Government is currently shut down over the building of a border wall.  Now, there are some wide differences in opinion as to whether this wall is needed, but I think most people, even in these divided times, understand the importance of security.  While this is applicable to a country’s borders, it is equally applicable to our data.


Considering the continuation (and acceleration) in the growth of data expected to cross wireless networks, one has to wonder why we aren’t paying more attention to some of the potential security issues with the upcoming launch of 5G.


Now, I am far from a security expert and I am definitely not saying that underlying network infrastructure that will power 5G is inherently insecure.  There are some pretty smart people who have installed many different security procedures, encryption services and authentication servers to keep it safe.  However, some security experts are raising concerns about 5G that are unique, and I am not sure if everyone is listening.


According to Patrick Rhude, Nokia’s head of Product Management Security, 5G networks offer 200x more “attack vectors”, which is another way of saying that there are 200x more different ways for a hacker to gain access to a network, than 4G.  Rhude goes on to point out that this is due to the heavier reliance on software, edge computing and cloud-based infrastructure.  Ironically, according to Lowell McAdam (CEO of Verizon), this is a selling feature, as the move to put processing power into the cloud (and not on the phone) will be the reason why 5G smartphones will experience extraordinary battery life … up to one month between charging!


However, where does this leave us?  The idea behind 5G was to lower the latency of the network (and increase the throughput speed) to the point where real-time surgery and autonomous driving were commonplace.  It is also to move vital traffic, such as health records and more, to cellular.  Are we going to be able to secure 5G networks to the point where people will feel safe to use them?


Time will tell, and there are some much smarter people than I am working on this.  I do think that companies need to take their own precautions … using end to end encryption, keeping key traffic off of the public Internet and the usual care of security remote devices (with non-default passwords) is a good start.  And, we need to press our politicians and policy makers to keep the pressure on network carriers and equipment providers to constantly stay ahead of the bad guys …


Robots are smart and motivated, humans are dumb and lazy

Much of the talk about automation is that people find every little reason to complain about the introduction of robots, while failing to understand much of the benefits they have.  On the flip side, they tend to overstate the “upside” of humans while downplaying the negatives that dealing with a human brings … I guess that is “human” nature.


This blog was spun out of an interesting article in the Washington Post (click here), where the columnist goes into detail about how many customers fail to understand the concept of various check-out methods.  He further goes on to talk about how robots would streamline the operations … it is an interesting read.


However, I think it goes much further than that.  I think we need to compare the performance of humans to robots on a more even playing field, and when we do, we will find that in most situations, a robot would easily outperform a human. 


Let the criticism begin …


Robots are unbiased, humans (generally) are not

Robots do not let any preconceived bias affect their decision-making … unless, that bias was installed by a human in the first place.  They treat all people the same, regardless of their race, sex or age.  For situations where we are looking for equality (such as in the courts or at the hospital), isn’t that better?


Robots always get a good night’s sleep and never yell at their kids in the car

This one has mostly to do with driving, but it does factor into other possible areas of automation.  On the weekend, I was driving my kids back from a weekend away, one where I stayed in a noisy hotel that was housing many sports teams … so, I didn’t get a ton of great sleep.  I noticed that I seemed to lose focus (briefly) on this long, boring drive and I did have to spend a lot of time “talking loudly” to the kids.  Now, did I crash?  No, I did not, but I definitely was not at my best, but a robot would not have had any such issues and would be driving at maximum alertness at all times.


People seem to lose IQ points when they are not at work

Think of a nurse, a waitress or anyone else who can have a fast-paced job … they tend to be very alert, attentive and can manage multiple things at once.  Put that same person in a mall parking lot on the weekend and it seems that they are not nearly as sharp.  Something about not being at work seems to drop someone’s IQ and decision-making ability.  Not so with a robot.


Are there things that robots can’t do as well?  Sure there are, but more and more, I am being convinced that we way overrate the abilities of humans and way underestimate the abilities of technology … we just aren’t as bright as we think we are.

The one person who really likes a good traffic jam

Ok, put up your hand if you enjoy being stuck in a really bad traffic jam … anyone?  I didn’t think so.  However, that isn’t totally true, as there are a few companies that truly benefit from excessive gridlock. 


In addition to those who repair your car (which suffers more wear and tear in heavy congestion), advertisers are finding that drivers in their cars are a very captive audience in many parts of the country.  It kind of makes sense … you’re moving at a snail’s pace and are often looking for something to keep yourself occupied (besides looking at the taillights of the car in front of you). 


Signs at the side of the highway are not new, as advertisers have been using printed billboards for a long time.  As well, the use of Digital screens has been around for a while.  What is changing this industry is the ability to adapt their messages in ways that were not possible, thanks for the combination of IoT and Artificial Intelligence. 

Here's a few things: 

  • Advertising rates for these signs were traditionally done based on an expected volume of traffic on a pre-set basis (such as daily or weekly).  Using sensors, sign operators can better judge the size of the audience, allowing them to not only better predict revenue but to charge different rates based on the time of day or day of the week.
  • Software solutions allow the sign to capture a snapshot of the value of the average car that goes by (it does this by identifying car models and calculating an approximate value).  By doing this, they can better understand the demographics of the audience, allowing them to provide a better value for the advertiser.
  • Finally, through the use of different sensors (like for temperature and the presence of rain/snow), advertisers can offer different time-sensitive offers (such as a coupon code for a cold drink on days when the temperature is soaring). 


As well, advertisers are able to find out when there may be the highest level of traffic (peak commute times is their term) to be able to maximize effectiveness for certain products, as people may be at their most frustrated.  This may include recommending an alcoholic product (for when you get home) and even a suggestion to upgrade your car. 


In short, as traffic gets worse, this form of advertising becomes much more effective, even in the time of Facebook and satellite radio.  Maybe a drink when you get home is not such a bad idea …