CES 2017 marks the 21st year since the term Internet of Things (IoT) was introduced. Since it first appeared in 1985, we have seen a growing number of IoT devices at the show – some that were actually IoT devices and some that were labeled as such just for marketing purposes. In the 1990s, we witnessed the first attempts of bringing home automation, home networks and similar devices to consumers. In recent years, wearable technology and drones have joined the IoT zoo at CES. But, both remain relatively small markets and some of the devices arguably are not even IoT devices, meaning that many are not autonomous sensors connected to the internet, but rather human-controlled intelligent devices.

True IoT is not so obvious to the casual observer at CES. One area of IoT that needs a closer look, because it is growing and actually generating revenue right now, is the industrial IoT. I’m talking about the tremendous progress in the energy, smart cities and factory automation markets. It’s in these markets that the business models are proven and market leaders have transitioned from proprietary products to standards-based, open architectures in the past few years. Systems that used to be single application are now multi-application and expanding to adjacent markets. That’s innovation at scale. For example, today’s smart cities share networks that support multiple tenants and multiple applications to provide better services and more choices for citizens.

The industrial IoT has graduated from experimenting with sensors, to defining standards and required security, to producing business value with sensors, networks and data analysis. This is real progress, while consumer IoT is still in the first phase: experimenting with sensors. Something to think about: 10,000 industrial IoT devices is considered a pilot project, while the same number is what successful consumers IoT startups boast as their current customer base. It’s a different order of magnitude. So, go walk the show and look for industrial IoT — money making, not experimentations.

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Roberto Aiello
Managing Director, Itron Idea Labs - Itron Idea Labs
Dr. Roberto Aiello is the managing director of the Itron Idea Labs and responsible for new business innovation at Itron, including Internet of Things.

His previous experience includes managing wireless research at Interval Research, Paul Allen's technology incubator and technology transfer at Disney Research. He is an advisor to Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) and is a Lean Startup expert who serves as a mentor at the Cleantech Open and Startup Weekend.

Dr. Aiello also founded two venture-funded, wireless semiconductor companies and one web/mobile startup. Dr. Aiello worked as a physicist at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Superconducting Super Collider.