Nanda Kumar Nanda Kumar CEO - Suntec Business Solutions

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You can do what with a bicycle wheel?

  • Our current obsession with privacy, or lack of it (that the press has been highlighting), may be short-lived as we start to see the benefits of sharing personal data across different ecosystems.

    You are probably already aware of in-car monitoring systems insurance companies are pushing that record your driving habits and reward you with cheaper premiums if you are a careful driver.

    And those wearable devices like wristbands that transmit all your body movements to a smartphone app to let you know if you have done enough exercise to warrant its cost. It can also be geared to send data further afield to your personal trainer, physician and sleep clinic to monitor your wellbeing.

    Additional devices can be added to monitor heart rates, blood sugar levels, brain function - you name it. In developing regions the smartphone is becoming the remote medical device of choice acting as the eyes, ears and voice of a remote team of doctors, surgeons and midwives.

    IoTThat's not to mention the countless reports of new wrist devices that act like 'watches on steroids', glasses connected to the internet to link names to faces and record your every move for posterity and home monitoring gizmos that will let you know how much energy you are consuming and when is the most opportune time to use those high-power appliances.

    It doesn't stop there. Makers of the MIT developed Copenhagen Wheel, a replacement back wheel for bicycles claim it "transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, and road conditions in real-time."

    But wait, there's more! "Controlled through your smartphone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes a natural extension of your everyday life (how weird is that). You can use your phone to unlock and lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you. As you cycle, the wheel's sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide, NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes, to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. You can also share your data with friends, or with your city - anonymously if you wish - thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of environmental information from which we can all benefit."

    All this begs the question - what are the business models driving all this technology, or is the technology driving the business models? Hang on, many don't have any business model even remotely attached to them - they were simply great ideas at the time.

    Sure, the developers and marketers get paid for the devices and probably hope to sell millions of them to recover the investment costs, pay out backers and have enough left over to live happily ever after.

    As these are all components of the 'Internet of Things' (IoT) they will rely on some form of communications medium to send their vital information across. Then there are the service providers that will analyse, utilise, virtualise an, hopefully, monetise that data coming at them from all directions.

    It's unlikely any one 'player' will achieve or even want to achieve end-to-end control of these IoT examples. Even giants like Google and Amazon have found it challenging to manage whole ecosystems. It's most likely that each type of technology will develop its own ecosystem around it and it will be as fluid as regulators, market types, socio-economics and demographics allow.

    The real winners in IoT will be those that can best manage the intricacies of partnering and running these ecosystems efficiently because they will likely be high-volume, low transaction rate businesses that will need special systems to extract revenues from one or more sections of the value chain.

    Nanda Kumar
    About Nanda Kumar Nanda Kumar works as CEO at Suntec Business Solutions
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