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For anyone involved in directing the future of the Internet of Things (IoT), the place to be in April was the inaugural Ayla Connect conference in San Francisco. During two days of high-powered presentations, panel discussions, and break-out sessions, leaders in organizations at the forefront of IoT came together to discuss strategies, tactics, and inspirations for the future of this force to be reckoned with.

Through the following pithy quotes from various IoT luminaries and Ayla customers and partners, you can get a feel for what Ayla Connect attendees experienced:

Creating the Best Business Models for IoT

“The mistake is treating IoT like IT. IoT is all about the outcome economy.” — Bruce Sinclair, publisher of IoT-Inc.com

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Bruce Sinclair kicked off the first day of Ayla Connect with an informative and inspiring keynote on “Using IoT to Win in the Outcome Economy.”

“Data is not the new oil, it’s the new sun.” — Bill Schmarzo, ‘The Dean of Big Data’ and now CTO of IoT and Analytics for Hitachi Vantara

The second day of the event began with a rousing, whirlwind exploration by Bill Schmarzo of how to leverage IoT data and analytics to power business models. He argues that ‘data is the new oil’ is a dated analogy used to describe yesterday’s business models. Instead, he asserts, ‘data is the new sun’ is more relevant for digitally transformed business models, with the analogy to the sun: built on an asset (data) that never wears out, never depletes, and is able to power an infinite number of uses at zero marginal cost.

“For digital transformation, start with your business initiative. It’s not about the technology, it’s about how you use it.” — Bill Schmarzo

Schmarzo’s “How to Monetize Your IoT” keynote included an overview of the Big Data Business Model Maturity Index.

“Today, no one has an answer for where IoT fits within an organization.” — Scott Pirdy, VP of Global IoT Technical Solutions at SharkNinja

One of the Ayla customers presenting during Ayla Connect, Scott Pirdy of SharkNinja pointed out that the relative newness of the IoT means that companies are still figuring out how to organize their operations around it.

“IoT business models are moving from operational to direct to indirect. Business model innovation requires trial and error and numerous approaches.” — Tom Kerber, Director of IoT Strategy for Parks Associates

Tom Kerber leads Parks Associates’ market research in the areas of home controls, energy management, and home networks. He summarized research covering everything from the diffusion of innovation and the evolution of big data analytics to value creation and purchase inhibitors for IoT and the movement of IoT business models from operational (stressing efficiency and business transformation) to direct (product and service models) to indirect (software and marketplace models and operational efficiencies for partners).

Envisioning What’s Different About IoT

“Big data isn’t about the ‘big,’ it’s about the small, the individual.” — Bill Schmarzo

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Schmarzo emphasized that business decisions should be based on detailed insights, not averages.

“The fourth age of communications—the Internet of Everything (IoE)—began in 2013. We are now a mobile digital species.” — Tom Lee, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford and co-founder of Ayla Networks

In another lively and thought-provoking presentation, Stanford Professor and Ayla co-founder Tom Lee used the history of the telegraph, telephone, wireless maritime communications, and broadcasting to argue that we have entered the fourth age of communications. Extending beyond what’s traditionally defined as IoT, this fourth age encompasses the Internet of Everything (IoE).

“You need to get away from ‘buying IoT’ and focus on what it can do for your customers.” — Nolan Mondrow, CEO and founder of LockState

Another Ayla customer, Nolan Mondrow of LockState, explained the importance of focusing on the customer experience that will be defined by IoT products.

“The best user interface (UI) is no UI. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the why of why you do IoT.” — Aditya Pendyala, VP of Growth and co-founder of mnubo

Speaking from the perspective of data analytics firm and Ayla partner mnubo, Aditya Pendyala was one of four panelists discussing the role and status of AI, machine learning (ML), and predictive analytics in the development of smart products.

Building the IoT Journey so Far

“The IoT is a giant variability challenge.” — David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks

Ayla CEO Dave Friedman provided Ayla’s perspective on the digitization of business in a connected world, emphasizing the need for underlying IoT technologies that enable as much configurability and flexibility as possible.

“’Smart’ is the sum of the decisions (use cases) necessary to support an organization’s business or operational objectives.” — Bill Schmarzo

Schmarzo applied some rigor to the often-bandied ‘smart’ terminology, tying it directly to business objectives.

“Connected does not equal smart. Connected products are actually more of a problem if you don’t make them smart.” — Arsham Hatambeiki, VP of Corporate Product and Strategy at Universal Electronics, Inc.

UEI’s Arsham Hatambeiki expanded on Schmarzo’s observation, based on his experience setting the strategic direction across UEI’s technology assets and diverse product lines.

“When you create a digital twin, you don’t need the physical device to be there any more.” — Josh Pederson, head of Product Marketing at Ayla

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Virtualization of a physical device—a necessary first step—is what makes it possible to move to the next stages of the IoT journey, including managing the physical devices and harnessing the data they generate.

“It’s important to get buy-in at all levels, across the whole value chain of IoT.” — Steve Knox, Connected Customers Experience Manager for Sub-Zero Group

Speaking from experience, Ayla customer Steve Knox of Sub-Zero stressed that successful IoT implementations must be embraced throughout an organization, rather than relegated to only product development, or product marketing, or the C-suite.

“Synthetic sensors let you detect and understand the environment without cloud processing. They give you more privacy and less of the creepy factor without a reduction in the fidelity of knowledge.” — Woody Floyd, Executive Director at Vectorform

Woody Floyd, of Ayla’s partner Vectorform, talked about the current cutting edge of IoT, including disruptive technologies such as blockchain as well as new expectations for consumer experiences.

Looking Toward the Future

“Silicon is the new steel. And the terascale IoT will transform human existence in ways that we can’t guess today. But happen it will.” — Tom Lee

Professor Lee asserted that because atoms are commodities, silicon is the new steel. This realization should both worry and inspire the integrated circuit (IC) and telecommunications carrier industries—and propel IoT forward.

“AI is not magic.” — Linden Tibbets, CEO and co-founder of IFTTT

That’s because AI is based on models designed by people. Still, Tibbets said, AI will solve problems of breaking barriers.

Who owns IoT data? It’s not clear. — Uday Tennety, leader of strategic IoT partner engagements at Amazon Web Services (AWS)

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AWS’s Uday Tennety stressed that to deal with IoT-related security and privacy issues, it will be important to narrowly define both the intended and unintended uses of data.

“I’m convinced that IoT can be a profit center for a company, even though now it’s an overhead cost.” — Scott Pirdy

SharkNinja’s Pirdy provided an optimistic view of how IoT will move from a source of investment to a source of revenue.

That optimistic view might be the best way to encapsulate the main theme of the inaugural Ayla Connect event: IoT is growing up, and organizations of all kinds will be best served by harnessing these emerging technologies to achieve their business goals.

Or, as the Ayla Networks website says so succinctly: Connect. Virtualize. Transform.