Last month, executives from across Verizon gathered in San Francisco with entrepreneurs, VCs, and corporate peers to discuss the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). This was the second IoT themed Venture Forum of the year and was focused exclusively on the enterprise with discussions around smart cities, transportation, and platforms/security. The following is a selection of key takeaways from the day:
Our connected world is at a critical transition point: Our moderator, Peter Hirshberg, CEO of The Re:imagine Group and Chairman of the Board at the City Innovate Foundation, kicked of the discussion with a warning about security. As the globe transitions from billions to trillions of connected devices, and as these devices are increasingly embedded into our homes, factories and critical infrastructure, we must improve security. While the promise of smarter, connected environments combined with significant advances in machine learning techniques can yield many benefits, the negative impacts of compromised IoT systems could be catastrophic. If we are to safely unleash the power of industrial IoT solutions, security must be a core design principle.
Creating software that can think and adapt: The first Spotlight Talk of the afternoon focused on deploying cognitive, data-driven analytics to increase the reliability, safety, and security of the industrial Internet. Systems are being brought to market that can ingest massive amounts of sensor data, reliably identify points of failure, and provide meaningful and contextually relevant mediation solutions automatically. These artificial intelligence capabilities provide a foundation for advanced predictive maintenance and IoT security, an area that is estimated to grow into a $29 billion industry by 2020. The oil and gas industry has been an early adopter, but such AI could be used for much more – one forward-thinking example involved creating immersive simulated battle environments for “next generation cyber warrior training.”
Connecting platforms to unlock products and protect data: Verizon’s Mike Lanman moderated a panel on IoT Platforms with panelists from two startups in the space. Mike is the Senior Vice President of Enterprise Product Management at Verizon, and oversees IoT solutions. The discussion centered on the roles platforms play within IoT and how they’ve come to be defined. We discussed the idea that data integrity, rather than confidentially or privacy, is the most important aspect for a secure enterprise IoT platform. Cryptographic approaches, similar to those employed by the blockchain, can provide enterprises with mathematical certainty that their IoT devices and data have not been compromised or tampered with. Such approaches to data integrity ensure that any tampering can be automatically detected. Positive confirmation that a system has not been hacked is an important assurance as the IoT moves towards controlling critical infrastructure and systems.
We also discussed seamless computing and a future where platforms allow for simple workflows to be created that knit together functions and data across different IoT and web services. Today’s developers need to contend with more and more platforms, and need to get up to speed on all of them quickly. APIs and other tools have emerged in both the consumer and enterprise IoT spaces that allow developers to tap into services across several platforms. By making it simple to move data across platforms, developers don’t need to start from scratch when building different versions of their apps.
Driving data can improve safety and reduce risk: One of the more interesting presentations came from a company described by their founder as “Waze on steroids.” Their goal is to make driving safer and to use sensor data to create greater real-time situational awareness of city streets and highways. They mount a high-end sensor and cameras to a car’s windshield, which collects and stores visual and other information. Machine learning algorithms analyze the data to detect relevant events, classify driving patterns, understand the context of road and traffic conditions, and a host of other driving situations. Relevant events can be sent to the cloud for further processing. The technology is also useful for inventorying and recommending parking spots anywhere in a city, providing directions and maps, which are updated in real-time. As these types of technologies proliferate, they will bring tremendous utility to drivers and insurance companies but also cities.
The private sector could be a city’s best friend: One of the main takeaways from our Smart Cities round table was that in order to advance initiatives, municipalities need to be open to experimentation. The private sector could be a great partner in helping cities in that regard. Case in point, part of the reason San Francisco lets Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb exist, is to test concepts out. A more formalized example of a good private-public partnership is Envision (Charlotte, NC), where they are developing first-of-their kind programs in energy, water, waste and air to conserve resources and reduce operating costs. In the end, the goal is to create valuable amenities that will attract citizens and improve their experience.
Autonomous vehicles are coming to a city near you: Peter Hirshberg asked the smart cities and transportation panel just how close we are to having fully autonomous vehicles. We discussed where autonomous vehicles are already operating; in confined areas like mines and farms where the public risk factors are low. A corporate VC representing a large automaker shared his view that it will take a while for sensor technology to be able to safely react to the myriad of conditions and situations that can surface in an actual city. On the speculation that Google will enter the vehicle industry, he believes they will definitely play a role in autonomous vehicles but doesn’t think they will become an auto manufacturer, buttressed by the recent announcement that Google and Ford are partnering on self-driving cars. Another venture capitalist on the panel mentioned that we should also keep our minds open to other types of autonomous vehicles – not just cars, but ground drones that can travel along sidewalks and deliver packages the last mile. He described the efforts of two companies developing solutions in this space: Dispatch and Starship Technologies.
This latest Enterprise IoT Venture Forum included some incredible guests that provided great perspective on an industry that’s truly emerging at this very moment. We’d like to thank Peter Hirshberg for moderating, Zeev Klein and the Landmark Ventures team, as well as all of our guests for helping us produce another insightful edition of the Verizon Venture Forum.
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