IoT and connectivity - with a CleanTech focus


By Martin Cuell

This is an interesting take on the investment trends within Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in the CleanTech world by the CleanTech Group (CTG).

In summary CTG suggest that the increase in investment by VCs into the CleanTech market has led unsurprisingly to an increase in a multitude of new ventures and innovation in this sector.  Good news of course and an indication of healthy entrepreneurialism in the sector.  However the article goes on to say that this has also led to greater fragmentation in the types of solutions available, the communication platforms used, data sets in play and technology standards available to the market. This has the long term effect for the consumer/customer of making it a  time consuming and costly affair to knit together multiple solutions from different vendors.

The theme of the article strikes a chord us at Foot Anstey having had similar discussions earlier this month at the Festival of the Future Cities (16th to 20th) in held in Bristol (recently upgraded to the UK's leading smart city by Huawei index).  

In  our discussions with business leaders and technologists and the CTG article referenced there are clear concerns as to how best to 'centralise' and control/guide (?) innovation whether at the sector or connected city level. Without greater collaboration between local authorities, businesses and technologists to identify common ground or standards for the use of technology, data repositories and/or communication networks is there a risk that greater solution driven benefits to a sector/city will be stifled before they get started? Ultimately will the consumer need to invest more and more on different kit/software/SaaS based products in the future simply to keep its connected solutions...connected? 

The counter argument of course is that by encouraging competition within the CleanTech market or any other market for that matter or indeed at connected city level - the most successful, intuitive and viable commercial solutions will find their own way.  Survival of the fittest and the rules of natural selection will apply!  However this is, by definition, likely to be a longer term play and will mean that businesses and the public will have to choose their platform, comms, IoT solution carefully - in the hope that they have backed the winner (Betamax or VHS; Android or Apple; Hive or Evohome etc etc).  This gives rise to a constantly shifting and evolving marketplace for IoT solutions rather than a more focused approach to managing and accommodating interoperability. 

Identifying and agreeing common requirements and standards as well as horizon scanning future opportunities with greater industry/city collaboration  is obviously difficult and challenging but seems to be a much more purposive way of arriving at a common goal in contrast to leaving the industry without this sort of focus.  Perhaps a controversial view but this feels as though we are at a tipping point between technological opportunity and  our ability as a society to take control of how we may guide and control the core industries and cities of the future without the potential for undue cost wastage and more complex issues of interconnectivity in the years ahead.

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