Internet of Things: Embrace failure, beware the hype

An expert panel said businesses should be skeptical of hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) but also noted that connected devices offer exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to collaborate, embrace failure and recognize the human dimension.

Marcelino Alvarez, CEO of Uncorked Studios, said he looks forward to the "post-hype" of IoT. “The biggest misconception is that it’s plug and play," said Alvarez, one of several panelists who participated in an Oregon Business breakfast forum this morning. "It’s a very nascent industry. It gets mature when your parents can use (IoT) without calling you. It’s not there."  

Alvarez said IoT does portend a future without hardware startups. “The point at which you don’t have to build your own hardware…is where the really innovative ideas come up.”

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Zac Wheeler, founder & CEO of 38 Zeros, said the future of IoT is about getting away from energy efficiency and optimizing business outcomes. Wheeler said no single startup is going to "own" the IoT market and that scaling IoT technology won't be as easy as scaling mobile technology. "The way you operate your house is very different from the way I operate my house. So the idea that this is easily scalable is a misconception." 

Sounding an optimistic note, Sce Pike, the founder & CEO of IOTAS, said the definition of home will change. "For us the home is not a physical space, but something that follows you."  She described a future in which "your mom doesn’t have to call you to fix something — your home calls you, home being the notion where you take Rosie from the Jetsons and blow her up and put her in the walls.” 

Pike said connected homes eventually will recall and respond to consumer preferences and demands, from notifying residents that Uber is waiting to sending a goodnight message to family members.

Mitshuhiro Yamazaki, an international business development officer for the Portland Development Commission, predicted a "green IoT nation" that is “productive, efficient, connected and fun."  But he also described a failed smart city venture in Japan, in which everything was connected — but the people. Smart city advocates should keep in mind that social media and connected technologies are, in the end, about "a table, a glass of wine and friends," Yamazaki said.

“If you are not spending as much time with your loved ones, then we have a ways to go. What is coming next is the physical connectivity of the people.”

Rick Turoczy of the Portland Incubator Experiment moderated the discussion, which was held at Wilf’s Restaurant.

Related news: On February 9, Portland is hosting Japan's International Forum on the FutureCity initiative. To register, click here.

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is the editor of Oregon Business.

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