“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the wrong name.” This is what Michael Porter, a Harvard professor and author, said during a recent MassTLC IoT conference. He said this because the Internet is a known commodity and shouldn’t be the focus. Really things shouldn’t be either because they aren’t the real differentiator. Michael Porter argued that the focus should be on the products that are being built. I would argue that the real focus is on a complete solution that brings devices, data, and software together.
Having said that, a topic that kept coming up throughout the conference was the importance of the software to realize the solution being built.
A company on a panel at the same conference was called Freight Farms. This company converts the back end of transport trucks into farms to grow fruits and vegetables. It enables produce to be grown in a city parking lot or even in cold climate locations. The panelist from Freight Farms said the whole freight car is tightly controlled through devices that can set exactly the amount of water, light, and temperature for the plants. They are learning how to get the best yield from each farm. They update the software frequently and learn how to be more efficient at growing each specific plant as they go. It was clear from the talk that this was unachievable without the software and the control they have over the data coming back.
Shifting from hardware to software
At one point during the conference, a moderator asked how many were in IoT and most raised their hands. They then asked how many had products that are being retrofitted to be connected and again, many raised their hands. This means we are getting a lot of companies who are used to building hardware now focusing on software as a differentiator.
How are they doing this so quickly? They are using open source, learning how to debug complex applications, and entering into a new realm of security and defect management. This is where they could get help from us.
Overall, software is the differentiator. Developers are leaning heavily on open source to build their solutions and need help making sure it is safe, reliable, and meets customer expectations.