Forget the Cloud Wars; It’s Time for the IoT Wars

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Much has been made about the ongoing cloud wars. For those not familiar with the term, the cloud wars refers to the intense competition between public cloud providers as they seek to increase their share of the lucrative and growing cloud market. In fact, to describe the competition as intense is probably an understatement. Announcements regarding new features and slashed prices have become a regular occurrence, leading to battles over retaining customers while attracting new ones. As heated as this fight has been, it may be time to take some of the attention away from the cloud wars and instead focus on a rapidly developing new battlefield: the Internet of Things (IoT). Companies are now competing with each other as they hope to take a bigger slice of pie in what is still an evolving marketplace. Considering how many analysts believe the number of devices connected to the IoT could reach 50 billion by 2020 thanks to advances in flash storage and other technology, the push to gain as much market share as possible goes beyond high intensity competition.

Revolutionary Reach

This shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise to anyone closely connected to the tech community. In much the same way the cloud has transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry, the IoT could have the same revolutionary reach. Estimates vary but pretty much each one agrees that the IoT market will be huge in the near future. Gartner predicts that it will be worth up to $300 billion by the end of the decade, while Cisco goes even further, saying the IoT is a $19 trillion opportunity. No matter which prediction ends up coming true, it’s clear the IoT market is one companies will want a piece of, and the maneuvering has already started.

Complicated Market

The complexity of the IoT market makes for complicated competition. With public cloud services, the battle is pretty straightforward. Cloud companies offer a service and try to gain more customers than their rivals. With the Internet of Things, the issue isn’t so easily defined. There are many different aspects to the marketplace that companies could choose to seize control of. As such, when discussing the IoT market, it’s important to note that it’s not a homogenous marketplace with clearly defined quarters.

With that in mind, one of the biggest and most crucial aspects of the IoT market is the ongoing drive to develop and establish a universal set of standards allowing devices to communicate with users and each other. This communications protocol represents a major opportunity for tech companies. Think of it as a platform whereby devices of all types, sizes, and functions are able to operate smoothly, communicating without problems for maximum effect. It’s like a technical ecosystem, rather than a closed system shut off from other networks out there. The only way for the IoT to function properly is to set up this universal standard, and right now, companies are trying to be the one to fully establish the system they favor.

Battle For Standards

It’s much like the battle from a decade ago over what the next generation of discs would entail. Would it be the blu-ray disc or HD DVDs? As we now know, blu-rays won out because more media companies and manufacturers adopted them than the alternative. The same is happening with setting up a universal IoT standard. Intel backs the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), which recently acquired the standards association UPnP Forum. It’s basically a consolidation that supports interoperability between different IoT devices. Competitors have taken a similar approach, like Qualcomm’s AllJoyn alliance. The beginnings of other types of standards can also be seen in Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Nest, which connects every device and function within a smart home. Both companies’ strategy is to start at the home and branch out from there. The idea would be to establish the standard, and then ask software programmers and developers to manufacture their IoT devices with that standard in mind.

One can easily see the immense opportunity available for the company that eventually comes out on top of this battle. Whether the Internet of Things is used for advanced business analytics or simply to alert you when you run out of milk in your fridge, the potential is vast, both for users and businesses seeking to profit from it. While the battle may be waged behind the scenes for now, it won’t be too long before the IoT wars becomes far reaching, dwarfing even the cloud wars in scope. | Images via Shutterstock

Alex Espenson

Alex Espenson is a technology writer with a passion for home automation, tech security, and wearable smart devices.

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