Why Australia can’t afford to miss out on the Internet of Things (IoT)

By: Eitan Bienstock

First published on 23 October 2015 in the Sydney Morning Herald, edited on July 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents the biggest technology wave for years to come. There will be 25-50 billion connected devices by 2020, which will generate as much as $US4-$US11 trillion a year in economic value and will transform every aspect of our lives.

From wearable technology through to autonomous cars and smart homes, the effect of IoT will be profound. It will also impact most industries. Finance, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, resources are a few of the industries already seeing the transformational effect of IoT, and many more will be impacted as it reaches maturity.

The Internet of Things hype is at its peak, according to Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. It is at the point where the hard work is about to begin. At the moment, the challenges and opportunities are obvious, but the enabling solutions need still to be developed.

We are at the precipice of the IoT wave breaking point and unless we paddle hard and stand up soon, we will miss out on an economic opportunity for Australia through the development of a new key industry. There will be no second chance.

Australia did not take part in the PC wave during the 80’s and 90’s and we were too busy digging golden dirt out of the ground during the mobile wave that followed. Now it is our opportunity to embrace the IoT wave that will be bigger than the smartphone, tablet, and PC markets combined.

Twenty-six companies (including 14 in the US) are each forecasted to invest $US1 billion or more on Internet of Things initiatives this year. That billion-dollar group comes from seven industries including banking and financial services, automotive, travel, hospitality and retail.

With over 20 years of technology development experience in Israel and the US, the most important thing I have learnt is that we must concentrate on areas with the highest growth potential, which is currently IoT. But how? By focusing on areas in which we have good skills and global expertise such as finance, agriculture, healthcare and resources.

Taking a quick look at Israel innovation timeline, one could easily identify distinct eras and evolution of expertise and achievements: While the 1950s and 1960s were all about agriculture, the 1970s and ’80s focused on semiconductor and communication technologies and the ’90s took a turn towards internet and security solutions.

Today, Israel is simply known for its excellence in innovation and development. But it’s important to note that it’s a result of the different stages and knowledge accumulated over the years.

Australia’s background and history is obviously completely different and is now ready to embrace innovation and grow its start-up ecosystem. Our universities and CSIRO generate relevant IP in areas such as mobile communication, big data, sensing technologies and others. We have world expertise in a number of industries including finance, agriculture, life science and energy.

The big corporates in Australia have also started realising the potential and are acting on it. Recent example would be Telstra’s new board member, Trae Vassallo (a US-based technology executive investor and advisor with vast experience in IoT ventures).

Others such as Intel, Cisco, AWS. CSIRO, CommBank and KPMG have joined forces to propel IoT innovation by supporting Australia’s main IoT conference, Everything IoT 2015 with the purpose to unlock Australia’s IoT potential.

We have the opportunity to take up the global IoT challenge. We have all the basic ingredients to make it work. The IoT opportunity is there for us to grasp. Let's not miss out.

Eitan Bienstock is an entrepreneur, an active voice in the innovation ecosystem and the founder & CEO of Everything IoT .

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