IoT China Expo 2015

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Although at nowhere near the level of Computex or other major tech tradeshows, the IoT China Expo 2015 in Wuxi provided some useful pointers of the directions that IoT technology and business in China are heading in.

China Unicom delivered the clearest vision of the future of IoT at its booth – not an easy task even on a large budget – but it was the smaller stands that I was most interested in looking it to see what is happening at the ground level.

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I was a little surprised to see that there were only a couple of fairly lackluster booths showing consumer gadgets such as smart watches and 3D printers (I suppose they can be classified as IoT). But then again Wuxi isn’t exactly Shenzhen, the undisputed king of that market.

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One segment Wuxi appears to be focusing on is smart exercise machines and ergonomic chairs, and it even has a dedicated “Intellectual Sports Park” for that purpose. Such a strategy makes sense: while the first wave of IoT innovation has been about creating shiny new gadgets, the second wave will be integrating IoT capabilities into existing products and systems. Creating an ecosystem to support this transition by bringing together the design and manufacturing skills of established companies and the energy and creativity of young start-ups is the first step in enabling this transition.

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In addition to a number of serious players at the show promoting their industrial automation, robotics, and smart factory solutions, there were a couple of companies showing off some heavy-duty agricultural IoT applications such as water management and livestock management.

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Although they don’t have the same sex appeal as gadgets and even exercise machines, these are the “hard-hat” IoT segments that will have the most meaningful impact on economic development and social wellbeing in China and globally and deserve a lot more respect and attention.

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Perhaps they also need to improve their marketing as well – though these guys certainly managed to catch my eye with their fluffy cow and pony…

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As I finished my tour of the show floor, I couldn’t help feeling that for all the interesting stuff on display it lacked a certain buzz and energy. Amidst all the booths and displays I hadn’t found a single product or company that had truly excited me. But that soon changed when I went to visit the TIIC National Undergraduate IoT Design Contest sponsored by TI.

More on that over the weekend.

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