Three #needtoknowmobile tips for taking on the Internet of Things

IoT Picture GreenAt The Mobile Academy this year, we won’t just be taking a look at what’s currently happening in the world of mobile. To help you stay ahead of the mobile world, we’ll be running sessions on topics likely to dominate the sector in the coming years.

One of those topics is the Internet of Things (IoT for short). Encompassing everything from home light sensors to complex safety control systems, it could provide an environment in which the physical world around us is revolutionised by digital additions.

But what do you need to know about the IoT? We caught up with Stuart Revell, who’ll teach the session on it, and we think these are the three things you’ve got to know about the IoT.

1) What the Internet of Things is

It may seem like an obvious place to start, but actually understanding what the Internet of Things is will be essential to making the most of it.

As with many technologies that are new and appear transformative, there is clear interest in the field. “Everyone is interested in the IoT in the way people were interested in mobile Apps in 2008” Stuart explains.

But actually defining what it is while the IoT evolves is difficult. In short, the Internet of Things is the encompassing term for everything that is helping to drive machine to machine and machine to human digital interactions in the physical world.

That includes the devices themselves, which boast sensors, actuators and communications technology to allow them to be monitored and operated remotely. It includes the hardware and software that’ll enable this to happen. And it includes the platforms and infrastructure that helps to support, distribute and maintain the IoT.

And there will be two main categories of application that’ll drive the IoT. The first is non-critical applications, such as light switches and smart thermostats, which will improve the quality of life without requiring constant monitoring in case of a failure.

Then there are the critical applications, which could significantly help us but would need careful control to ensure there isn’t a failure. Stuart told us some examples, “Car sensors used to monitor the position of other traffic is a critical application, while anything involving the transmission and use of sensitive data would also fall into this category”.

The IoT is, therefore, still being defined. But understanding the basic construction and definitions is a big step to making sense of it.

2) Why fragmentation is likely to be the Internet of Things’ biggest challenge

Even at this early stage in the Internet of Things’ history, one big problem is likely to emerge over all others: fragmentation.

It’s true to some extent that all early technologies face problems with fragmentation. As Stuart explained to us, the mobile software market faced a similar problem with developers having to providing multiple versions.

“A good analogy is the App market. It wasn’t until someone took the smartphone and abstracted the complexity and provided common approaches to software development that they could take it globally.”

And the IoT is receiving significant love from the established mobile market players to resolve this problem. Apple, Google and Samsung have each made plays in the sector, as they attempt to create a platform to repeat the growth of the App market.

However, the IoT suffers more from fragmentation problems than apps because it transcends digital and the physical world.

As it exists in the physical world, it is hampered by local infrastructure on a level far deeper than a national level. Selling a solution to, say, one thermostat provider won’t mean you can do a deal with another in the same locale. And that’s before you begin considering how an IoT device made in China might differ to one made in Sweden or India.

This presents a conundrum for anyone wanting to enter the IoT market. “If you want to make an early intervention into the market, you have to make choices but also make sure that you don’t locked into a solution which lacks flexibility to adapt and evolve as the eco-system matures”, Stuart told us.

And what that basically means is that you will have to commit to backing someone without getting caught out if fragmentation does consolidate in a way you don’t expect it to. Easy, eh?

3) How to overcome the challenge of fragmentation with partners

Anyone thinking of creating an out of the box global solution for any Internet of Thing product or service is, in Stuart’s words, “dreaming”. But that doesn’t mean that a savvy company can’t go about constructing partnerships to help overcome this problem.

At a higher level, working with the big players such as Apple and Google will help to give you coverage. But by working with local providers and partners, you can slowly begin to build up a coverage of what Stuart explained would need to be about 50-60% of the world to begin to turn your solution global.

“The only way you can do this is with co-creation of multiple partners to work across the different silos of business, service and technologies” Stuart told us. The sheer scale of the IoT blank canvas means it is worth aiming for. “If you’re working with critical solutions on social economic issues such as ageing population, energy and transport, those are always going to present opportunities. You need to do more with less money, so technology is needed to solve the problem”.

So if you’re looking to solve one of those big universal problems, the IoT really does present an opportunity. The key then is to learn how you can begin to think about providing a solution that works as well for Apple aficionados in America as it does for Korean consumers using their Samsung devices.

Stuart’s session on the Internet of Things at The Mobile Academy will explore in detail what it is, what’s interesting about it, the technology and business models that are emerging to support it and an interactive session to explain the topologies and architecture of it.

You can secure your place at The Mobile Academy, which starts on the 1st October here.

#needtoknowmobile tips to help your product go global

Stuart Revell - in interview with The Mobile Academy

Stuart Revell – in interview with The Mobile Academy

Mobile has taken over the world. Whether you’re in Surrey or Shanghai, Busan or Barnet or Rio de Janeiro or Rochdale, the mobile revolution has successfully connected consumers and businesses across the Earth.

Which means there is an unprecedented opportunity to grow a small local business into a globally operating entity. But how can you make the mobile world your oyster?

We caught up with The Mobile Academy tutor Stuart Revell, and he gave us some #needtoknowmobile tips ahead of his session on the topic.

1) Recognise the scale of the opportunity

Mobile penetration is a genuinely global phenomenon. According to a GSMA report released in October 2014, there are now more mobile devices in the world than there are people. And although half the people in the world still don’t have a device, that still means there are over 3 billion potential consumers in the world for you to tap into.

This is a serious opportunity for everyone operating in the sector. For app developers in particular, the proliferation of global distribution platforms has helped them to reach markets abroad with ease.

“You have markets all around the world and there are differences and niches you need to think about, but the economies of scale are huge” said Stuart. “Leveraging the app stores, like Apple’s, Google Play and Amazon’s can get you quite a long way without needing to have businesses located around the world”

And though there aren’t out of the box solutions for creators of other products, such as physical infrastructure or software as a service, the sheer size of the mobile market is enough to encourage providers to look at distributing globally.

2) Appreciate national and regional differences

That said, thinking of a global market as a uniform entity is a mistake. Despite the fact that you can distribute globally, you still need to appreciate how different regions and nations operate.

This happens on two levels. The first is on the product level. Adapting your product to suit the differing needs of audiences in Asia, the U.S. and Europe won’t just require localisation of text; it’ll require you to adapt to unique marketing channels, different artistic tastes and cultural sensitivities.

Second, you’ll need to deal with different legal landscapes, business models and the headaches that could come with them. As Stuart told us, the scale of problem depends on what sort of product or service you’re releasing.

“I chaired a session at CeBIT 2014 on the Internet of Things in Germany and I couldn’t believe the push back from the attendees on things like cameras and privacy” he said. Similarly, mobile products supporting sectors like healthcare can be quickly tied up in all sorts of red tape depending on which countries you operate in. Selecting the right opportunities in the appropriate markets is essential for building a sustainable business.

3) Take advantage of your national institutions and brands

Expanding globally can be difficult to do. Even if your proposition is being distributed with the help of international virtual channels, you’ll need to find a way to physically get on the ground in certain countries to help market your product further.

And for most businesses, whether big or small, it can be difficult to know how to do that effectively. Which is why you should be thinking about leveraging national bodies to help you extend your reach.

“If you’re prepared and your proposition is ready, then you can go through UKTI (UK Trade and Investment), as they’re always looking out for good stories from UK companies,” said Stuart.

But beyond bodies, national brands can also help you to cut through the noise. According to Stuart, “In certain markets the UK has a good brand on security, privacy and data. It’s a difficult topic but our ability to collaborate and work together and solve these challenges provides us with a unique differentiator”.

And with the UK boasting a great reputation as a provider of mobile innovation, financial services, games and design, there are likely to be other angles you can explore to take advantage of the national brand for your product.

4) Perfect the pitch

Finally, when you are heading abroad on that expensive international trip, you want to make sure that you perfect your pitch to make every meeting matter.

“The main reason [that it is important to pitch well] is that you have snapshots of opportunities”, said Stuart. “If you don’t take them and you’re not prepared, you’ll miss your chances. If you get the pitch right, it may turn into business.”

That means you need to be doing two things. First, you need to be honing your company pitch down to the essentials to help you confidently tell people about your business.

Second, you’ll need to learn to adapt it for different people. “I’ll be getting them [The Mobile Academy attendees] to prepare thirty second and 2 minute pitches, with different pitches for different people.” Stuart explained. “Most people don’t want to hear about the technology, they want to hear about the outcome and the value.”

By shaping up your pitch as sharply as possible, you can ensure you get value for money from those potentially costly expeditions abroad.

Learn more about these tips and the making the most of going global from Stuart by attending the The Mobile Academy, which starts on the 1st October. Tickets for the next course are available here, with discounts available for start-ups and students