The Stack speaks with Masanari Arai, CEO at Kii Corporation, to discuss the challenges and opportunities that developers face when bringing their IoT solutions to the market…
“In the IoT space lots of developers are losing out, wasting time, effort and money by not thoroughly considering end-user value or their sales channels.” Arai opened the discussion by underlining how important it is for developers to seek out the right tools and resources to help them monetise their solution and optimise its longevity in the market.
Arai suggested that an opportunity to access such support could be found with the likes of ‘Space’ – a developer ecosystem which provides a framework for effectively connecting IoT solutions with the end user. “Both the device manufacturers and the service providers want to make money, as well as ensuring a happy customer base – Space can guarantee a helping hand in this mission.”
For Arai IoT is best categorised into two sections; ‘B2C’ – providing value services to the consumer, and ‘Industrial’ which involves scale sectors such as manufacturing and smart cities. “Both sectors are concerned with saving costs, increasing yield, decreasing margins of error, saving energy, and ultimately gaining a steady revenue stream,” Arai added.
“There is a lot of hype around connected homes, but it in reality it’s a sector that’s struggling to sell,” he argued. Instead Arai suggested that IoT developers should tap into solutions that will significantly contribute to world problems. “Farming and agriculture is not given enough attention compared to the likes of consumer wearables and smart homeware […] The world’s population is booming and people have to eat – food shortage is going to be a major problem and IoT really has the opportunity to alleviate it.”
Arai quoted as an example the high-tech farming projects underway in Holland. “The Dutch are experts at designing indoor computer-controlled vegetable ‘factories.’ The veg is completely organic as farmers don’t need to worry about bugs ruining their crop,” he explained. “Through the cloud they are able to check quality, flavour and water level, allowing the opportunity to really optimise the product.”
Developers are also looking for support with securing their solutions, said Arai. “Essentially any existing internet or smart device security solution can be applied to IoT to achieve the same level of security,” he explained. “The only difference with IoT security is perhaps the limited processing power and lack of resource on the device.” Arai continued to highlight the urgency of finding ways to miniaturise security measures, such as data encryption, and apply them to small IoT devices.
As a member of the Allseen Alliance, Arai noted standardisation as a further critical consideration for the IoT industry. “We are never going to see consolidation into one standards framework because of conflicting purpose and politics,” he said. Despite this belief Arai was still confident in the power of effective standardisation: “I am a member of the Allseen Alliance in which 100 companies have participated and around 40 devices are expected to hit the market by the end of the year. When we implement the Allseen gateway we automatically support each of those devices – that is the beauty of standardisation.”
Arai added that regulation also presents a barrier for developers, particularly in Europe where there are so many countries with differing protocol. “Data gathered in France and stored in the cloud has to be stored in a French cloud. Many startups are implementing solutions across Amazon Web Services, which is based in Ireland. These companies are not able to provide services for French audiences using Amazon’s cloud.”
He noted by comparison that although the U.S. has strict regulations too, such as the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), once you support a regulation you support the country’s huge population. Whereas in Europe investing in similar regulatory infrastructure in each country becomes a really expensive feat and a partcularly difficult process for smaller startups.
A benefit of these regional particularities however, Arai suggested, is country specific expertise. He argued that developers should use this to their advantage: “Germany is building on its historical expertise in the automotive industry to develop smart IoT solutions […] Switzerland too has a long history of miniaturisation technologies and precise mechanics because of their skill in watchmaking.” He explained that this unique advantage encouraged the Swiss government to invest $100mn in IoT development and wearable technology.