In October last year, Gartner forecast that by 2017 50% of IoT solutions will originate in startups less than three-years old – pointing out: “Individuals and small companies that span the globe are developing IoT solutions to real-world, often niche problems. They are taking advantage of low-cost electronics, traditional manufacturing and 3D printing tools, and open- and closed-source hardware and software to create IoT devices that improve processes and lives.”
Judging by the projects I saw on display last week at the TIIC National Undergraduate IoT Design Contest in Wuxi, China is no exception to this trend. Indeed, it’s probably well ahead of the curve, for it wasn’t just IoT devices like the smart helmet pictured above that the students demonstrated but also prototypes of IoT systems for home, city, and industrial use, including even a real-time natural gas pipeline monitoring solution.
It wouldn’t be too difficult to write off such projects as being impractical given the “real world” complexity involved in designing, installing, and maintaining them in demanding environments. But that would be to underestimate their true significance: namely that low-cost IoT development platforms are providing young people with the tools they need to approach “big” problems in an holistic way.
Rather than simply designing a discrete device, they are considering what kind of data it will display and/or capture, how it will connect to others in the ecosystem, and in some cases how the ecosystem itself will be built. These are precisely the conceptual skills that will be required for designing and managing the complexity of large-scale IoT projects of the future, and it was encouraging to see the students have the opportunity to learn and practice them in a fun and engaging way.
While I don’t think I saw any potential unicorns among the contest participants, I discovered something a lot more important: an enthusiastic, creative, and tech-savvy young generation ready and willing to use technology to tackle the huge challenges that China and the world faces.
I look forward to seeing even more exciting things from them in the future.