May 23, 2022

IoT is Dead; Long Live IoT!

Copenhagen Business School recently hosted an expert panel [1] to explore how algorithms and data shape competition in the context of platforms. These might be e-commerce or social media platforms that exploit consumer data for advertising and behavioral-nudging purposes. The dynamics of this market are changing, partly due to privacy regulations. Competitive strategies, such as Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) offering, are another factor [2]. 

Among the economic, competitive strategy and technology topics under discussion, the discussion around data seemed particularly relevant to how the Internet of Things (IoT) market is developing. 

Data and the Digital Economy 

 In the economics sphere, there is an emerging debate around data. Specifically, should it be treated as a factor of production, on a par with capital and labor? If so, this would suggest that the act of accumulating data would be something positive, a bit like hiring more staff or investing more machinery. It would also lead to the formation of data markets, mimicking employment agencies and on-line job sites. 

However, since data is non-exclusive in its use, pricing becomes difficult. Different users might have vastly different valuations. A slightly more nuanced treatment of data as an economic resource would say that its value derives not so much from accumulation but more from the process of using data. Following this point of view, the scope of data in the digital economy would separate into ‘production’ and ‘usage’ categories.

Today, two topics dominate the IoT market. One is ‘things,’ and the other is ‘connectivity.’ In his keynote presentation at Qualcomm’s 5G summit, for example, CEO Cristiano Amon predicted a world where billions of devices are connected to the cloud as 5G expands beyond smartphones [3]. This is a statement about things and connectivity. Qualcomm no longer sees its future as just a processor company. Rather, it is transforming into a “connected processor company.” This helps with the ‘production’ of data. But is more needed to capture the digital transformation that IoT data and remote-control promise? Could it be that the nature of IoT is changing? 

Interoperability of Things 

The ‘usage’ that makes data valuable involves moving data between producers and consumers. It begins from a solid foundation of interoperability. That is needed to facilitate reliable and controllable exchanges between different parties and supervisory bodies.

Mobile communications networks and devices have shown the way and at enormous scale. Cross-network connectivity, roaming and eSIM technology are examples of how it is possible to switch vendors and still enjoy a baseline level of communications services. Having commoditized the connectivity challenge, now might be the time to re-badge the IoT term. Now, the emphasis should be on the Interoperability of Things. 

Once the market has achieved a uniform degree of interoperability, the next big evolution will entail a shift to the Interpretability of Things. This is because interpretability will make it easier to parse recommendations from decision making systems. Interpretability will also be needed to address ever rising conditions on accountability and transparency that will be imposed on people-centric and mission critical IoT systems. 

[1] Online Panel: Unpacking the inner workings of a Platform: How do algorithms and data shape competition among participants?

[2] Mobile Advertising and the Impact of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Policy 

[3] Qualcomm wants to connect all devices all the time


  1. 15 June 2022 update

    All in all, there were acknowledgments that it’s difficult to sell tech hardware on the basis of connectivity for its own sake – and there was reference to the fact this was sometimes how IoT was sold ten years ago to a less than rapturous response. But also the message seemed to be that deploying edge into a business can’t be expected to immediately yield an uptick in profits.

  2. 21 June 2022

    More on Ad-tracking from the MNO community

    We have been hearing about TrustPid for several days, the so-called ‘super cookie’ of operators that allows the mobile Internet service provider (ISP) to identify users when they browse the Internet to sell that data to advertisers. Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom officially confirmed that they had started testing it in Germany, but the English operator assured us that it had no intention of carrying out the pilot test in Spain.

  3. 11 July 2022

    Useful articles on data as a factor of production and how this affects international regulation and frameworks for data exchanges/marketplaces.

    China activates data in the national interest

    Oceans of data lift all boats: China’s data centers move west

    Beijing’s watchful eye on all data flowing in and out of China