BOSTON—To Mike Simon, if a product has an on/off switch, it should be connected to the Internet.
Simon, the outgoing CEO of remote access technology maker LogMeIn and co-founder of the company’s Xively Internet of things (IoT) business, said during the opening keynote of LogMeIn’s inaugural Xperience user conference here Oct. 1 that businesses no longer need to spend a lot of money to enter the burgeoning IoT arena, and the tools they need to do so are easily attainable.
“The technology is there,” he told the crowd at the show, which saw 5,000 people sign up to attend. “It’s inexpensive and available. You just need the innovation on top of that technology.”
For the bulk of its decade-plus of existence, LogMeIn made its money and its name through its remote access and desktop products that IT support departments can use and Web conferencing software for online collaboration. In 2009, the company went public and now has more than 800 employees.
However, a year ago LogMeIn bought Ionia for $12 million, a key acquisition that has helped the company move into the IoT space though its Xively platform. Now the Internet of things has become a key focus of LogMeIn—whose mission is to help businesses bring connectivity to their products—and is the central theme of Xperience, which runs through Oct. 2.
During the morning session, Simon laid out how advancements in technology have made connecting devices relatively easy and inexpensive, as well as the benefits the IoT can offer both those businesses that participate in it and society as a whole. His talk was more focused on the present and short-term future, while Peter Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of the Xprize Foundation, gave a look at where technology and the IoT are bringing the world in the next few years and decades.
For Simon—who is stepping down as CEO at the end of the year but will remain as board chairman—now is the time for businesses to get into the Internet of things. Moore’s Law is continuing to drive rapid innovation in technology, making it more powerful, smaller and inexpensive and opening up opportunities for companies of all sizes.
“Anyone that makes a product with an on/off switch should also make the IoT a priority,” he said. “The possibilities are endless with connectivity.”
The IoT is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years, with vendors and analysts alike forecasting staggering growth in the number of connected devices worldwide. Cisco Systems officials are predicting that the number will jump from 25 billion last year to 50 billion by 2020, and that the pervasive connectivity of everything from cars, homes and cities to industrial systems and medical devices will have a $19 trillion impact on the global economy.
That message is beginning to set in, Simon said. In a recent survey conducted by LogMeIn, 21 percent of responding companies said they have IoT projects underway and most see it as an opportunity to grow revenues. They also have C-level support, which he said is crucial to success.
Simon noted that analysts believe the global impact of the IoT can reach $1.7 trillion, but he said that might be conservative. The CEO pointed to cost savings in everything from the amount of energy used by households to the amount of gas consumed and time lost due to traffic congestion.
The challenges that businesses and technology vendors have to address are security, scalability and support, Simon said. He pointed to the recent high-profile hacks of moving vehicles as examples of the security hurdles, but also said that as more residential appliances and systems become connected—from garage doors to thermostats—the concerns increase. LogMeIn’s Xively division looked to address some of those concerns with the launch of its Xively Identity Manager Oct. 1.
Taking a Long-Term Look at the Future of IoT
Scalability comes not only in the number of devices becoming connected, but also the amount of data they generate. He pointed out that the Xively platform can support 868 billion messages from connected devices a day, compared with the 900 million tweets on Twitter, 4 billion Google searches and 17 billion Facebook messages that are sent each day.
In terms of support, the IoT gives businesses the chance to connect with their customers in a more personal way, Simon said.
“Relationships are at the heart of creating brand value,” he said. “Your products can help forge intimate relationships with customers for you.”
He pointed to several companies that are using the Xively to bring connectivity to an array of products, from printers and pet products to LED light bulbs and showerheads.
For his part, Diamandis said that advances in technology—particularly the creation of faster, cheaper computers—have played a key role across the globe in the rapid improvements in health care, education and life expectancy; the reduction in infant mortality; and the slowing growth of the global population.
“The incessant change in Moore’s Law is transforming our world,” Diamandis said, noting the observation in 1965 by Intel founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors in chips would double every 18 to 24 months, leading to smaller, better and less expensive systems.
These systems are now driving the development of the IoT and such crucial technologies as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robotics that will significantly change everything from health care and education to automobiles, energy and space exploration, he said.
This technology also is enabling more people to get into the game. Not that long ago, it cost $5 million to launch an Internet startup; it now costs about $5,000. Add in the 5 billion or so people around the world who will become connected over the next several years, and the promise of innovation is significant.
Diamandis took an expansive look at the future and urged those in the crowd to engage in “moonshots thinking.” Instead of trying to improve things by 10 percent, people should look to improve them 10 times. That changes how they approach issues and can lead to important innovations. He said he currently is looking at three areas for his moonshots thinking, including health care—especially in increasing life expectancy—and expanding human access to resources, such as finding ways to tap into resources that can be found on asteroids that come close to Earth.
He also said that incentivizing entrepreneurs can help drive innovation. Xprize offers millions of dollars in prizes to people who can come up with ways to leverage technology to solve global problems. Over the years, the foundation and technology partners have offered prizes of $10 million or more to entrepreneurs and businesses to address private space flight, develop handheld devices that can help consumers diagnose medical issues in themselves and others, map the ocean floor, create a system that can sit on a rooftop and take the moisture out of the air to create drinkable water, and most recently, collect carbon emissions from industrial plants and turn it into something useful.
Other areas they’re looking at range from artificial intelligence and transportation to cyber-security, he said.