I’ve been to enough conferences, unconferences, seminars, workshops and everything in-between to know that a large number of events are spent waiting for a particular speaker or session to make the day more interesting. In the instance of IoT13 last week, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Each topic was well thought out and insightful, the speakers were fantastic and the five minute pitch opportunities for IoT start-ups were intriguing. It was an opportunity to sit back and immerse yourself in a vision of the connected future that everyone in the room seemed to share.
James Jeynes from Nike painted an incredibly inspiring picture of the past, present and the future of Nike+. How a huge global consumer brand like Nike almost unknowingly brought IoT/product connectivity to the masses is a great story to listen to. What impressed me most was the way Nike are using the data from Nike+ to learn so much more about their customers than ever before.
Nike have intelligently, and without controversy (so far), gone from simply wanting to encourage movement from their consumers (Nike semantics) to now being able to predict movement against a range of conditions and understand when and where the product will most be used. This is exactly why brands need to embrace the opportunity to connect their products to the Web.
A question came from the audience about Nike using movement/fitness data to offer services such as insurance products, but this was quickly dismissed by James as out of the brand’s scope, and rightly so I think. He was understandably coy on their plans for connected products but simply confirmed there’s more to come.
The charismatic and insanely intelligent Bill Janeway of Warburg Pincus spoke on the ‘Where’s the smart money going?’ panel about the innovation economy and the necessity and role of speculative bubbles.
With IoT in its relative infancy, Bill gave his thoughts around the future of investments in the space and some intellectual debates with panelists like Alex Van Someren (Amadeus) and Simon Cook (DFJ Esprit) created some really thought-provoking moments. One key take away was that successful IoT companies will likely be those who can piggyback on existing connectivity infrastructure and concentrate on software services which extract meaning from the data flows.
Of the fifteen odd five minute start-up presentations I would highlight Chirp, Etherios and Datownia as three of my favourites – but that’s a very personal view. I’ve known about Chirp for some time now but it was good to get a refresher on their progress. Led by the entertaining Patrick Bergel it was one of the more animated presentations but that’s exactly how the time should be used in my opinion so full marks.
Chirp is a way of transferring data between devices without relying on connectivity like Bluetooth or NFC. It was good to hear that they are talking about using Chirp as a new engagement method for second screen, although I am generally dubious about TV ad syncing with mobile, especially when it’s app-based (but Patrick is a lot smarter than I am so let’s see).
Datownia was probably the story I was most impressed by. The way Will Lovegrove (company CEO) is educating smaller business on the value of APIs and helping them to archive and utilise their data is potentially huge. Other notable mentions include the always impressive Berg and their Berg Cloud offer, as well as Bleep Bleeps’ parenting products to help you conceive and care for your kiddies. And everyone at EVRYTHNG has long-standing respect for super smart tech like Electric Imp.
Earlier in the day, Liz Brandt (CEO of ctrl-shift) talked through the differences between a business case and a business model. Your business case is the Why (‘what is the requirement for my business?’), the business model is the How (‘how will my business address this requirement and be viable?’). The day rounded off with a discussion involving our very own Andy Hobsbawm discussing successful business models in IoT.
Andy spoke about the approach of EVRYTHNG and how it focuses on managing the identity of products and other objects, rather than the connectivity. One of the benefits being you don’t have to rely on products being constantly connected to give them an active presence on the Web. As with most panels during the day, the theme of data and everything around it, including extraction, ownership, privacy and utilization, was central to the debate.
For instance, panelist Dr Rob Treloar of Unilever outlined the potential for monitoring data based on sensors in fast moving products, which could be used to promote environmental behaviour change among consumers. Andy made the point that many IoT business models seem to be existing IT and telco approaches, just using new bits of technology or connectivity. He echoed the VC panel’s view that new value would come from knowing how to extract valuable meaning from all the data flowing from, about and around connected things, and working with businesses to understand and use these insights effectively.
All in all, a great day with lots of learnings. Thank you to the BLN team and we’re looking forward to the next one!