I have been writing and consulting about the Internet of Things since 1999, when I helped Jonathan Eunice create the “Pervasive Automation” practice at Illuminata, a boutique research firm based in Nashua, NH. Billions of dollars have poured into the space since then, but we still haven’t seen the big transformation many of us have expected for a long time. But increasingly it does look like machine to machine communications is going to get real.
IBM, for example, is investing heavily in Smarter Buildings, bringing the world of HVAC and asset management together with IT. Energy is the common thread there. I also wrote recently that IBM had open sourced some core MQTT technology, in an attempt to kick start the Internet of things, in a world made of messages.
At the other end of the infrastructure scale is a London startup called Pachube recently acquired by Logmein (remote access management for things rather than desktops… interesting potential) Its a simple broker and aggregator – initially targeted at environmental monitoring, though it can be used for pretty much anything. Pachube is very webby.
So what’s going to be in the middle, rather than the edge, where the business domain experience and knowledge is located? One interesting company in the space is my client ThingWorx. Why interesting? For one thing the founding team has done it before. This is industrial automation 2.0 for co-founder Rick Bulotta and the team. They sold Lighthammer to SAP back in 2005. ThinkWorx knows enterprise down cold-0 one of the reasons SAP bought them was massive industrial clients like Dow Corning.
The first time I got a demo of ThingWorx I was quite surprised. I expected something that looks like a message bus, but the platform is actually more like a app dev tools that understands a range of different endpoint types. A 4GL for building industrial automation apps if you like, or in modern parlance a mashup platform for business users.
The search and indexing in ThingWorx is also impressive. While not positioned in that way, it could potentially be seen as a Splunk for industrial sensors and devices.
ThingWorx is also beginnging to tie in some interesting partners- such as Sensei for smart grid management. Smart grid has been massively hyped, and covered extensively by our sister research arm Greenmonk, but the key point here is budgets. Smart Grid is still picking up stimulus funds, and as such its a great market to target.
I can’t promise 2012 will be the year of the Internet of Things. Like I say, its been 13 years since I thought it would take off. But – ThingWorx is well positioned to win clients in industrial automation, where messages are connected to business applications, and manufacturing and the supply chain become effectively integrated, and amenable to pivots around, for example, energy footprint.