At this year’s CES Las Vegas in Samsung, Intel, Firefox, Facebook, BlackBerry and even the French post office all unveiled their plans for investing in IoT this year. Here’s an overview of some of the main announcements.
Samsung: IoT-ready by 2020
“It's not science fiction anymore. It's science fact," said Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung’s CEO, about IoT during his keynote at CES 2015. The Internet of Things has been a major priority for the Korean giant for the past year or so: in August 2014 it bought out SmartThings, the American startup that set up a dedicated IoT and home automation platform, for around $200 million (according to TechCrunch). SmartThings solutions enable users of iOS or Android devices to manage their connected home devices. Yoon has officially incorporated the home automation platform into Samsung’s strategy, thus promoting the open ecosystem: the SmartThings Hub is compatible with over 1000 connected objects and apps. Yoon also announced the company’s plans to invest $100 million in the developer community for applications for the Internet of Things and that by 2017, most of its TVs will be connected and by 2020, all its hardware will be 100% IoT-ready.
Firefox to launch a mobile OS
After its web and mobile browsers, Mozilla announced plans to offer an alternative to Apple, Google and Microsoft’s closed ecosystems with an open-source version of its Firefox OS. As Joe Cheng, manager of product and project management at Mozilla’s mobile device group, explained on Computerworld: “We want to break that single-brand barrier.” The new OS will be compatible with TVs, wearables and home appliances. Panasonic has already announced it will be using the platform for its 4K ultra-HD TV, as it will give consumers “an interactive interface that they can easily customize to access apps, TV channels and content from other devices on their TVs home screen.” (Wall Street Journal).
Une plate-forme IoT BlackBerry pour les entreprises
At Las Vegas this year, Sandeep Chennakeshu, president of BlackBerry’s Technology Solutions unit, unveiled the company’s plans to promote its IoT platform. BlackBerry will be combining technology from its QNX platform, which powers systems in cars and industrial applications, with its secure network. It’s looking to expand its solutions to security systems, health monitors, door locks, cars and wearables. (CNet)
Facebook: natural language and headsets
Meanwhile Facebook recently announced it has bought out Wit.ai, a speech-recognition start-up created in 2012 by three Frenchmen now based in California. Wit.ai is an open-source platform for voice control of home appliances and, more generally, for creating an interface between connected objects. Earlier in 2014, Facebook also announced its acquisition of Oculus Rift. By breaking into the virtual reality headset market, Facebook plans to develop a range of gaming and immersive reality apps.
Intel consolidates its position in IoT
Intel, who unveiled their new Curie microchip for wearables at CES 2015, has been developing a number of IoT initiatives over the years. In 2009, it bought out Wind River, a leading software vendor in embedded devices, and last year it set up IoT Ignition Labs, an IoT innovation centre in Swindon in the UK. The chip-maker also invested in wearable technology company Basis, bought a 30% stake in Vuzix, a smart glasses manufacturer and rival of Google Glass. Last December, it officially launched its new IoT platform focusing on interoperability and security and with cloud-based solutions. With this platform, created in conjunction with some key industry partners, Intel hopes to cover the key sectors of healthcare, transport, smart cities and home automation (see the Intel blog).
The French Post Offices launches its “universal digital hub”
French group La Poste made a rather surprise announcement in Las Vegas this year: it’s launching a digital hub via its subsidiary Docapost to develop new digital products and services for businesses and consumers using the Internet of Things (IoT), in areas such as home autpmaiton, wearables and mobile apps.
Google, Apple and Yahoo already in the IoT race
The three giants are also well established in similar or more niche markets. Yahoo announced plans to target the wearables market in 2015, initially with the existing smart watches, and may eventually manufacture its own model (ITProPortal). Google, meanwhile, has made a number of significant forays into the Internet of Things: smart glasses, driverless cars, the acquisition of Nest in 2014 to break into the smart thermostat market, and Physical Web, an ambitious project for “interaction on demand” whereby people can use any smart devices without the need for intervening mobile apps (TechCrunch).
Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform, announced last spring, is rumoured to be launched early this year.