The IoT takeover

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure to visit Slush, the biggest startup event in the Nordics. When Slush started out in 2008 it attracted a couple of hundred visitors, but it has now grown to be one of the biggest event productions in the history of Finland. 14 000 visitors, 700 investors and 1 400 startups gather to discuss ideas and make the deal of their lifetime.

The atmosphere at the venue was surprisingly similar to any large industry conference. Surely one could sense the positive vibes stemming from young entrepreneurs, but it’s fair to say that the startup scene at Slush was pretty mature. The event attracted companies of all sizes including big corporations such as Valmet, Kone and Tieto who were there to capture innovation from the startup scene. Not to forget Nokia who utilized the Slush media hype for their relaunch and new tablet, N1.  The startup ecosystem can no longer be considered an isolated genre of it’s own. Instead, it has grown to be a serious business beyond the entrepreneurs including investors, media and even lawyers. The expectations are high.

The highly successful gaming companies have for many years flavored the Finnish startup scene so it came as a surprise that the focus at Slush was rather on life sciences, health and wellness, enterprise applications, and hardcore technology startups with hardware and software innovations. The underlying common trend for companies, products and services was one thing – Internet of Things (IoT). The past application trend was strongly present this year too, but the main story line was the extended connectivity to sensors and devices.

Why is IoT happening now? It’s all about the open platforms. Even the smallest companies can create products, services and solutions utilizing the open platforms. Internet and cloud computing provide reliable, scalable and cheap resources that can be deployed for storage and analytics. Thanks to mobile technologies both industrialized and emerging markets have capable access to IP networks. Application ecosystems like Android, iOS, Sailfish, etc. allow development and distribution of applications. Hardware is now affordable due to small size and low power programmable semi-conductors. Will IoT be a standard based commodity? No, the diversity of the ecosystem calls for a set of solutions that are both standard and proprietary. The blend of solutions will secure interesting domains for entrepreneurs and investors to explore.

The market is bubbling with innovation. Plenty of interesting IoT plays were present at Slush too. Platform solutions such as Quva, and Ubisense enable IoT across industries, applications and geographies. Enevo, Navigil and Thingsee offer logistical and end-2-end packaged solutions. Wirepas and Kyynel work with further extending coverage of IoT access infrastructure. Furthermore there will be tons of SI, software development, consulting and hosting opportunities for smaller and larger professional services companies, Tieto, IBM and Haltian were seeking for these at Slush – just to name a few.

We have worked with M2M (IoT) ecosystem for the past decade and while it has been fun and exciting we have learned one thing: IoT, M2M or whatever you want to call it is about a process of rolling out devices, integrating systems and in particular changing the way we are working and living – and that takes time. Therefore, the rate of success will be determined by the player’s capacity to be innovative and persistent, and the investor’s ability to be patient. And I believe that time has come.

/Joonas

Joonas is a Director at Northstream

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