Post #18: The future comes to Olympia

What is billed as the world’s largest Internet of Things conference series came to London last week. Other similar events will be held in Silicon Valley and Amsterdam over the course of the year. Over 2 days, some 300 companies and over 12,000 visitors (including ourselves) descended upon the Olympia conference centre in West London in order to learn about the Internet of Things (or IOT) and its impact on industries including manufacturing, transport, supply chain, insurance, logistics, government, energy and autos.

If there was a consistent message from everyone with whom we spoke, then it was simply that there is no silver bullet. Put another way, any business embracing the Internet of Things (in its various guises) will not find this to be a panacea, or solve-all, for their organisation. This was a refreshingly realistic message and something of a contrast to the hubris that often pervades many similar such events. Nonetheless, a certain fear-of-missing-out continues to drive business decisions and we note the statistic that 84% of businesses are apparently “actively involved with” the Internet of Things at present (per PWC).

On the practical side, we saw clear evidence of IOT implementation in a variety of smart home devices (especially meters) and also for monitoring changes in weather patterns (which would be useful for farmers and many other businesses). However, in discussions we had with various executives, it seems that the real value from IOT will come from combining intelligent devices and the information they generate in order to create new business solutions and/or workforce optimisation tools. In other words, data collection is necessary, but by no means sufficient. 

Elsewhere, on the ‘hype-scale’, we noted that 5G was described as a “gold rush” by at least one executive with whom we spoke. There seemed to be more excitement or relative over-use of this term than almost any other at the conference, even if much of the infrastructure for the next-generation of mobile (data) communications has not yet even been built yet. By contrast, it was refreshingly pleasing to see how little the word ‘bitcoin’ came up in conversations, a marked contrast to last year (when also attended the same event). Let’s what the 2020 conference holds. We will be there next March.

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