What business to start in 2013: The ‘internet of things’

Machine-to-machine is a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot more of. But where are the start-up opportunities?

1. Independent shops on the High Street
2. Outsourced security services
3. Knowledge-based products and services
4. Big Data
5. The ‘internet of things’
6. Emerging technologies
7. Premium products
8. Lean start-ups
9. Freelancing and contracting
10. Home improvement
11. Digital healthcare
12. IT security

The ‘internet of things’, which connects everyday devices to the internet, making cars, homes and workplaces smarter, is much like Big Data in terms of why it makes this list and is, in many ways, related. The proliferation of smart technology has created innumerable business opportunities for those capable of tying it all together.

Thanks to the explosion of smartphones, there are now more connected devices in the world than there are people. By 2015 Cisco believes there will be more than 25 billion connected devices, a number that will double by 2020.

Cisco’s CEO John Chambers has said the internet of things “…will enhance business revenues by $14.4 trillion over the next decade”. Others expect it to be even bigger. From things like controlling temperature levels or security in the home via smartphone to cars talking to roads and recording the vehicle’s performance, the potential to take ‘dumb’ everyday objects and connect them is limitless.

Andy Hobsbawm, founder of software start-up EVRYTHNG, which enables device manufacturers to connect directly with customers and partners, says its potential impact cannot be underestimated. “A global network connecting all physical devices, creating a new interconnected web of information, people and physical things is a game-changer,” says the Digital Hall of Fame inductee.

“Consider the far-reaching impact of a new technology like railways in America,” adds Hobsbawm. “The opportunities created by transporting goods over thousands of miles by rail transformed modern business.

“Corporations grew much larger so they needed bigger buildings and new forms of organisations, so secretaries and middle management were invented, along with typewriters, skyscrapers and elevators. In other words, the domino effect of the railroads over the next few decades was extraordinary. Similarly, the impact of the ‘internet of things’ will probably be equally transformational.”

Kenneth De Spielgeleire, Vodafone director, concurs: “As companies and consumers become more mobile the wealth of data that describes consumer behaviour will magnify. For example, insurers have started piloting usage-based insurance premiums based on mobile data analytics showing the insured party’s whereabouts and driving behaviours.

“A number of private and public bodies are going as far as making large data sets publicly available to volunteers who are invited to analyse and spot opportunities for optimising work practices in different industries or work environments.” And this is precisely where the worlds of the ‘internet of things’ and Big Data collide.

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