What M2M Industry Gets Wrong about IoT Innovation

On this week's Monday I attended the founding reception of a new M2M trade body, International M2M Council, or IMC as it abbreviates itself. Its founding members include a strong cast of industry heavyweights, including for instance AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Digi International, Oracle, and Telit Communications. The outfit's specific mission is to bring together the M2M suppliers with the existing practitioners and prospective adopters, and promote the related success stories and best practices. This is an important goal, since there is no doubt that M2M as a technology story could provide a better strategic narrative to the C suite, system integrators, and other hitherto hard-to-reach stakeholders. Very many organisations that could benefit from deploying M2M simply don't know what it can do for them.

My advise would be to include IoT app developers and the maker movement in that stakeholder list. See, what I'm personally finding more than a little puzzling about the M2M industry, is how absent the developer community typical is from these circles and discussions. This "developer community" is an admittedly nebulous and even mystified term, but what I mean by it in this context is a large pool of often independent and casually grouped software developers, who are attracted to the said pool by low barriers to entry as well as the ease of experimentation and prototyping. It's more about testing ideas rather than fitting them into a polished business plan straight from the beginning. That is an innovation model that has proven successful in the mobile application industry, and to my excitement we can already see clear signals of the same happening in the IoT space. I've posted previously about the topic here and here

A real problem for the M2M players, then, is that this new wave of IoT innovation is mainly taking place outside of their products, services, and the sphere of influence. I'm not going awfully much out on a limb when I say that the blame for this lies largely with telcos, which in general aren't comfortable with the speculative nature of such grassroot innovation. Ian Skerrett from Eclipse Foundation (itself an open-source community) summed up the dynamic well in his blog recently. Far too often telcos seem to shrug off, or even be concerned by, the innovation that stems from the maker movement, instead of celebrating it and trying to make themselves more relevant to the firms and invididuals behind it.

This failure to understand the needs of developers and the maker movement, in turn, is holding back many established M2M/IoT technology vendors that rely on telcos for their go-to-market strategy, exposing them to potential disruption from newer entrants whose technologies are a better for fit for the developer community. That should be reason enough for these groups to broaden their traditional definition of an "adopter". Maybe that could happen under the newly-founded IMC.