Will Google win the IoT battle with Brillo or is it too early to call yet?

Google vs Apple

Who will win the IoT supremacy battle?

Internet of Things (IoT) market is fast evolving. Understandably, big data stakeholders are tracking it with keen eyes. And practically everyone, from device manufacturers to advertisers, badly want access to the big data generated from IoT interactions. And why not? Big data analytics on IoT may drive revolutions in product preventive maintenance analytics, data driven customer SLAs and even consumer interaction analytics driven product selling strategies. CRM might get replaced by CLM (Customer Lifecycle Management). But this transition won’t be without hurdles.

Every product and media company would want to jump into this bandwagon, seeking its pie of consumer interactions data. Consumer, on the contrary, won’t want to manage 40-50 devices. Neither would he want to deal with disparate connected homes (courtesy vendor battles for data access and sharing). If switching costs of products, as an outcome of this battle, goes upwards, it might create further uproar among users. She also might feel perturbed by too many sensors floating around the household.

To address such issues, IoT landscape will have to simplify itself. Interestingly, there aren’t many signs of that. What we do have is an interesting battle building up for supremacy in the market landscape. And it seems like, everyone who lost some battle in the past, ranging from Intel (the Apple ARM miss) to Google (with its numerous hardware miscalculations), is up for this battle. Also, not missing in action are several startups and open source collaborative initiatives (read OS) who are making this setting a familiar battleground.

Very recently, Google announced its OS for IoT, naming it Brillo. So far, it seemed that the google IoT strategy was to build its portfolio of products and services, before embarking upon a decisive move to connect the dots between them. Announcing an IoT OS, from that perspective, is a natural progression. However, Google smartly ensured that whatever activities it was engaging were keeping it in fray for both consumer as well as enterprise segment pie, as evident from its simultaneous activities in automotive, robotics and consumer hardware segments. None of it, however, addresses legacy IoT issues. Useful data filtering is one issue. Monetization of data is another. How would you compensate the enterprises for sharing the data? Difficult questions but Google can be trusted to find a model, if not models, for making this work. Where Google will find an issue is the hardware aspect of it.

And hardware is somewhere where Apple is strong. But will that mean Apple will dominate everyone, including Google, in the IoT battle. The answer is ‘not likely’. Reasons? Android’s expanse, Google’s first move in the OS turf and most importantly, the likelihood that the best hardware for IoT will not necessarily come from either of these players. Though Google seem to have already made a move by forging an alliance with IBM on the Open Power Consortium for building custom power designs for its power centers. Home-grown power servers for Google is a good bet. But what could set alarm bells ringing is the fact that if Google does succeed in its plan, other big data centers bigwigs such as Amazon and Facebook might be tempted to follow suit.

On the chip side, with a number of other startups working on next generation microprocessors, companies like Intel aren’t going to breathe easy in the near future. Intel has tried to douse that fire by acquiring Lantiq in February this year. It shouldn’t be surprising if we also hear Google make an acquisition or two in 3D stacked microprocessors startups arena. This, if happens, will create a field wide open for Google to play play-maker in the hardware segment as well. Whatever happens, with the mobile and SSD segment in revolutionary mode, we shouldn’t expect the chip segment to be lacking in upheaval activity anytime soon.

Apple, in comparison, has adopted a more measured approach. Drawing developers to its Apple Watch, and replicating the HealthKit model with HomeKit, its attempt is to make iOS the mainstay (controller) of connected things experience. It makes sense too. In a fractured market, sticking to your core strength and remain consumer focused isn’t a bad strategy.

But Apple won’t have it easy. Competition is also coming along in the form of likes of Marvell, the maker of SoC products. Its low-power Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Bluetooth microcontroller supports multiple protocol stacks, including Apple. Another startup is Oort, which is building an interface for controlling all home devices, across multiple platforms. What such solutions would do is unburden the connected appliance manufacturer for compatibility with different OS. User experience, however, might differ significantly. Here, we might see Apple getting an upper hand initially. And Android (or Brillo) experience, as usual, will get some bickering, learn from outrage and later evolve into a better version of self.

No matter who does what, one thing is for sure. Google and Apple will not allow anyone else an easy walk in the park in the IoT segment. The unparalleled ability of these two firms in connecting their developers with users, and thereby create an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, is likely to run its part in the IoT market as well.

While this battle runs its full course, we hope that truce is also reached between Google’s networking protocol Thread vs. other such initiatives from the likes of Intel, GE and Qualcomm. Apple, interestingly, hasn’t entered this fray yet. From big data perspective, that is an equally important proposition.

Anubhav, a data scientist, writes about new developments and future trends in the machine learning and data analytics domain.
He can be reached at anubhav@thinkbigdata.in
Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/think_bigdata

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