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Internet of Things February 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Guy Garrud

Consumer IoT at CES 2019

Why is this topic significant?

The annual CES trade show provides a platform for major and minor electronics companies to showcase their latest products. The show can also offer insights into what major players believe will be important product categories in the coming months.

Description

CES 2019 took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January and highlighted a large variety of internet-connectable devices. It also showed that many of these devices are clustering around a handful of applications:

  • Voice-assistant integration. Many devices at CES are compatible with one or more voice assistants. These devices range from Google Assistant in Sonos's range of smart speakers through the smart bed from Reverie that features Alexa integration, Alexa-enabled motorcycle helmets, and even an Alexa-integrated smart toilet courtesy of Kohler.
  • Home security. Smart locks have been an early application for the IoT, albeit not without some initial stumbling blocks. At CES, smart lock manufacturers Mighton and Kwikset both unveiled smart locks that integrate with Apple's HomeKit platform. Amazon also announced additional device compatibility for its "Key by Amazon" service, which enables couriers to enter part of a user's home to leave packages. Other home-security developments include Ring's IoT webcam that replaces a front door's peephole and software company Sensory, which has developed an AI for identifying sounds (for example, breaking glass) that a smart home device's microphones detect.
  • Kitchen aids. General Electric launched its Kitchen Hub, which comprises a cooker extraction hood that incorporates a large-format smart display. KitchenAid offered a more modest smart display for kitchen use that is reportedly "water-jet resistant" and sits on a user's worktop. Whirlpool unveiled an augmented-reality oven that can show live images from a camera inside the oven on a display in the oven door. Additionally, the oven can reportedly identify what is in it, select optimal cooking settings, and also offer recipe advice.

Implications

Consumer IoT devices fall broadly into three categories. First are devices with no or limited utility that are unlikely to find a large enough market to prove commercially viable. Second are devices that have a clear use case but also feature internet connectivity as a secondary feature. For example, the LavvieBot self-cleaning cat litter tray has a clear use case, but the additional utility of a litter tray that sends alerts to a user's smartphone is less clear. Third—and of most importance to IoT service providers—are devices that have internet connectivity as a core component of their utility. A clear example of the last of these devices is smart speaker and smart display devices that continued to dominate the discourse at CES 2019.

Impacts/Disruptions

Although the smart home market is still relatively nascent, competition is heating up in several key areas. Smart speakers/displays is already an area of significant hardware competition that is complicated by its interaction with a simultaneous software ecosystem fight between Amazon, Google, and—to a lesser extent—Apple. The smart home marketplace is also riding high on the hype curve and may likely see a dramatic drop in public interest in the next year or two, potentially triggering a wave of mergers and acquisitions, particularly of smaller smart home start-ups.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Smart home devices, voice assistants, IoT software platforms

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

LTE IoT Deployments

By David Strachan-Olson
Strachan-Olson is a consultant with Strategic Business Insights.

Why is this topic significant?

Cellular companies around the world are deploying LTE IoT networks that have low power and low complexity in order to support IoT deployments. LTE IoT networks could represent a challenge to existing IoT communications services that use unlicensed wireless spectrums.

Description

Numerous communication technologies and protocols exist for Internet-of-Things (IoT) deployments, but the cellular industry is beginning to make serious investments in long-term-evolution (LTE) IoT as a competitor to such systems. LTE IoT, as outlined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), consists of two systems: enhanced machine-type communication (eMTC) and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). Both eMTC and NB-IoT offer communications optimized for low-powered devices but have individual performance characteristics in terms of peak data rate, latency, and range. eMTC has performance characteristics superior to those of NB-IoT and also supports voice over LTE but uses more energy and has moderate complexity. NB-IoT, in contrast to eMTC, provides very low-power and low-complexity communications, but applications must be delay tolerant.

eMTC deployments have been limited primarily to the North American carriers; European and Asian carriers have largely adopted NB-IoT. In some countries—such as the United States, Japan, and Australia—carriers are deploying both eMTC and NB-IoT networks to increase the variety of services available to customers.

Implications

Many early IoT devices and machine-to-machine communications use second-generation (2G) and third-generation (3G) cellular-network technologies to connect devices, but carriers around the world have already sunsetted or will soon sunset 2G and 3G deployments in favor of LTE IoT. This transition will likely cause frustration for many companies that connected their systems to 2G and 3G networks early on.

eMTC is in position as an ideal communication technology for devices that have fewer data needs than a smartphone has but more than simple environmental sensors have, whereas NB-IoT communications are better suited to enabling the development of low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs). A number of companies and organizations—such as SigFox, LoRa, and Weightless—are deploying LPWANs for very low-complexity use cases, typically using unlicensed wireless spectrum. SigFox has been the dominant market leader, with early expansions in Europe, Asia, and the United States for smart meter deployments, parking sensors, and environmental sensors. Despite SigFox's early market lead, the market for LPWANs is still developing, with hundreds of millions more sensors and devices likely to come online in the coming years. NB-IoT has capabilities similar to those of other LPWANs but integrates with the large networks already deployed by cellular carriers. As NB-IoT networks emerge, cellular companies might leverage their current LTE contracts with companies and municipalities to gain LPWAN contracts for upcoming IoT deployments.

Impacts/Disruptions

Cellular companies will soon have a wide portfolio of communication options for various IoT devices. Traditional LTE networks and the development of 5G networks will offer the highest-performance connections for portable-electronics devices, connected cars, security cameras, and mobile robots. NB-IoT will support very simple IoT devices, such as parking meters, environmental sensors, utility sensors, smart streetlights, and agricultural monitors. And eMTC will fit between the two services and will likely make an ideal communication system for wearables, asset trackers, and security sensors.

As companies and municipalities begin to embrace the IoT, they will likely connect many various types of devices, each with distinct communications requirements. Cellular carriers, with their variety of communication options, could become a one-stop shop for all of a business's or municipality's communication needs. Additionally, the 3GPP is developing standards to improve eMTC and NB-IoT to offer new features and capabilities.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Cellular networks, network infrastructure, sensor networks, smart cities, low-power wide-area networks

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: