Q&A with Jim Morrish, Founder and Chief Research Officer, Machina Research

June is Thought Leadership month at Calysto. If you haven’t yet, check out our divergent white paper on the topic.  In line with this thinking, we interviewed one of the IoT industry’s Thought Leaders, Jim Morrish. In addition to being one of the founders of Machina Research (an IoT-focused industry analyst and consulting firm), Jim has recently co-authored a book, Enterprise IoT.

Jim, as we get started, can you tell us a little about your background?

I’ve spent more than 20 years working in the telecommunications and technology industries, my first 17 as a consultant and project manager, then one as an industry analyst before founding Machina Research in early 2011. I am a Co-Chair of the Industrial Internet Consortium’s Business Strategy and Solution Lifecycle Working Group and Chair of their Business Strategy Task Group. I’m also a member of the Global Advisory Body for the IET’s India IoT Panel. Between my two roles at the IIC and with the IET, I get a good insight into the leading edge of thinking of global players in the IoT space, and also the dynamic startups emerging from a more developing market perspective.

Can you tell us how you define M2M and IoT? How they are different?

In general, M2M was about connecting devices, and the IoT is about stitching all of these things together to do really neat things. In terms of scope, M2M solutions are very narrow, often simply a single application. M2M applications are often point solutions designed to address a specific need with limited consideration of any external environments.

Conversely, the IoT is open and unbounded. A full set of relevant standards are a prerequisite for a fully-fledged IoT: an environment where every data stream can (meaningfully) interact with every other data stream through means of an IoT application depends on those devices to some extent speaking the same language.

The vast territory between “M2M” and “the IoT” is characterized by a plethora of what we term Subnets of Things. Some of these Subnets of Things will overlap, some will be subsets of wider Subnets of Things, and many may post a limited amount of data to a wider Internet of Things. We expect these Subnets of Things to emerge before a fully-fledged IoT, and to allow for the deployment of IoT technologies within more limited (often closed) groups of stakeholders.

And when you talk about the IoT, are you mostly speaking about B2C or B2B? 

When you look at it, in many ways the consumer market is the product of an enterprise, so in a way, it is all enterprise IoT. It’s all the same project works, and the approaches are actually the same things that lead to those consumer devices being in the market. In terms of putting services out there and creating ecosystems, that’s where the real difference is felt. In consumer markets, it’s harder to develop the ecosystem sufficiently to make the IoT truly fly.  Since it depends more on relatively bounded Subnets of Things, enterprise IoT can develops far faster than consumer adoption, which depends a lot on the development of standards and a broader IoT.

It’s my belief that IoT will be driven by an enterprise. Any device you see that is connected is a product of an enterprise, for example, companies make consumer goods, such as smart watches, and so on. I would also expand the definition of enterprise IoT to include things like Smart Cities. Cities go out and procure things in the same way as an enterprise does.

So it’s not necessarily B2B or B2C, but B2B2C? 

Yes. An enterprise is any group of people—companies, campuses, Smart Cities. All of these are enterprises of some kind. They either procure IoT solutions or produce them. The consumer market is simply one of demand.  

What brought you and your partners to write Enterprise IoT?  Can you tell us a little about the book? Who you see as its audience and why?

Enterprise IoT is an underestimated concept. We can talk in vague terms about the adoption of IoT technologies, and the way that the IoT will support our future lives, but the fact is that every single IoT initiative will be driven by an enterprise of some kind. Connected homes won’t happen by themselves: the individual components within those homes will have to be planned, designed, manufactured and sold by enterprises of different kinds. As such, enterprise IoT is where IoT ‘gets real’, and it is within the enterprise context that many of the biggest challenges of the IoT will be addressed and resolved.

So we believed that enterprise IoT was a critical area. But it is also a new and emerging area, different to what has gone before. If you’re looking for a project manager for an IoT project, the chances are that you could find someone with 10 years of telecommunications experience, or 10 years of IT development experience, or 10 years of hardware development experience. But enterprise IoT projects need managers with capabilities in all three domains, which is why we decided to write a book to help senior management teams and project managers from various different domains to understand more about the full breadth of capabilities required to deliver enterprise IoT solutions. We were seeking to educate and inform this key constituency that we expect will ultimately drive the overall adoption of the IoT.

What do you feel the biggest challenges are for enterprise IoT deployments today?

I think that the biggest risk is not taking a holistic and long-term approach. If companies develop and deploy a range of point solutions to address specific IoT-related opportunities, then there is a risk that many of these will be developed in a way that is inconsistent with a longer-term systems and platforms strategy. That would result in inefficiency, inflexibility and limitations to the potential of IoT solutions down the line. The risk, effectively, is building the IoT equivalent of the legacy IT systems scenario that caused such inefficiency and problems in and around the 1990s. The key is to set an overall direction for development, and a guiding strategy, and effectively to manage a portfolio of candidate IoT solutions and initiatives so that synergies can be extracted, and supporting capabilities and infrastructures can be as ‘shared’ and productized as possible. Much of this kind of challenge will go away as standards are developed, but we are some way away from that yet.

What effect will the IoT and these industry changes have on the economy?

The overall effect of the IoT will be huge. The IoT truly is the next technological revolution. However the impact of the IoT, the timings of adoption and the way that solutions come to market, achieve traction and permeate around the world will vary greatly by region. 

There are three very distinct ways we’re seeing the IoT being rolled out across the world. The U.S. is actually leading the way in terms of deployment because of its fast adoption cycles.  In Asia, there is a far more fragmented environment, and development is more cost constrained., However, I think Asia will be a crucible for innovation, bringing to market some transformative capabilities and solutions. There will not be even development across all of Asia, of course. In India there are 200 smart cities in deployment. There are more than 300 in China. There are wide differences in the ways the that Asian markets approach the IoT opportunity, particularly compared to the U.S. market, and these will have a strong influence on Western markets. In Europe, there is more thinking about the use of data and the impact to society than in the rest of the world. So we are looking at three very different approaches.

Do you feel IoT companies (vendors, service providers, etc.) are really articulating what they do and what their value is to the market? 

A lot of the IoT space can seem to be relatively undifferentiated when judged on the basis of marketing messages and market positioning, but this is just a consequence of the relative immaturity of the industry. The development of standards, and established and recognized value chains and some restructuring of the competitive dynamics in the IoT will solve this current lack of differentiation. Right now, though, the best way to cut through some of the competing messages from companies that they ‘can do’ certain things is to seek to understand what they ‘are currently doing’: what capabilities they have productized in a way that will scale efficiently, what markets (vertical, horizontal and geographic) they are incumbent in, and the types of solutions that they actually are delivering.

What could the industry be doing better to enable this transformation?

Mature faster! In many ways, it’s just going to take time and evolution of the supply side industry, standards and increasing education of potential end users. One day, the IoT will be business-as-usual in the same way that IT is today. About 25 years ago, the internet was in the same kind of place – the potential was clear, but nobody really knew how to realize that potential. The development of standards will help, and as participants drop the ‘can do’ mantra (as in ‘we can do that, yes’) and start to differentiate on the basis of capabilities, a lot of the current confusion will be alleviated.

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