London’s IoT TechExpo is emerging as one of the most important events in the calendar for Europe’s burgeoning IoT community.
The event attracts a broad spread of players from across entire IoT ecosystem from hardware to software, as well as connectivity and services and includes both heavyweight corporates as well as emerging start-ups.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the event from PAC’s perspective was that it was much more business-centric than similar sessions we have attended in the past. There was less focus on the art-of-the-possible and consumer gadgets, and much more on how IoT can – and is – supporting real business challenges.
A great example is Intel, which showed that it is capable of going beyond just the production of components by showcasing its solution for real-time congestion charge calculation developed at Intel Labs in the UK. The system is designed for urban areas and is capable of adjusting congestion charges for drivers based on the current level of traffic in a city area, unlike the existing fixed rates used in London. Intel also demonstrated its well-known retail solution developed originally for Levi's stores, which helps in optimising store operations and stock management.
Another emerging contender is PTC, which is making a major push on augmented reality on the back of its acquisition of Vuforia. PTC was showing its AR tag called VuMark that activates its AR platform. The platform, which is available on an iPad app and does not require any dedicated VR equipment such as glasses, shows all the sensors and features interactive instructions for example on how to change spare parts.
Outside of the big guys, PAC also met with several smaller but very ambitious IoT innovators. One of them is Covisint, originally founded during the dotcom boom by automotive giants GM, Daimler & Ford, as a global exchange for the automotive supply chain. The company was acquired by Compuware before being spun-out in late 2013, and has now re-emerged as an IoT player. Covisint has developed an IoT platform and supercharged it with an Identity and Access Management solution, to make it secure enough for markets such as, automotive, manufacturing and financial services industries. Covisint is looking to expand its European reach in 2016 through partnerships with global systems integrators.
Another intriguing startup is Berlin-based Relayr, which burst onto the scene back in 2014 when it won the first prize at Cisco's IoT Innovation Challenge. Relayr’s platform and hardware sensor kit is designed to simplify the development of IoT applications, particularly for smaller businesses, although it includes Bosch and the City of Paris among its customers. The company secured $11m in funding at the back end of last year from backers including KPCB and Munich Venture Partners, and is looking to take its offering global in 2016.
We also met with early stage startup EveryWare, which was flying the flag for UK-led innovation in IoT and showcased its working real-time monitoring solution. The company has strong ties to electronics industry – sister company AES develops electronic devices for sectors such as aerospace, automotive and medical. And EveryWare leverages these manufacturing ties to position itself as a one-stop-shop for IoT projects, from the provision of sensors and the data collection platform (‘Smarthub’) through to advisory and support services without any outsourcing.
The IoT ecosystem is in a very early stage of development and currently supports a hugely diverse set of suppliers. We are already seeing the first wave of consolidation, and many of the smaller players will struggle to develop the relationships with large accounts or generate the necessary development funds to ensure they stay on top as standardization and price competition start to bite. But the growing focus on how to solve business problems as well as technological innovation, is good news for the sector.