Internet of Things, Wi-Fi, connected, high-rise
Neil Stevens

Imagine a picture of an ecosystem, like one visualized by Babson College technology and information management wizard Bala Iyer, as “a loose network of interacting products and services.”

Iyer’s visualization comes alive as it accompanies commentary and a series of assertions in a Harvard Business Review piece titled “To Predict the Trajectory of the Internet of Things, Look to the Software Industry.”

OK, so not a title that trips lightly off the tongue. But that’s not the point. Look back at the image, its beauty, its complexity, its simplicity. Back off from it with your eyes, and it could be constellations of stars mapped across nearly infinite space, or, equally, it could be a subatomic spectacle that identifies parts of parts of parts of matter in balance across time and motion.

The issue is this: As Iyer notes, the Internet of Things is, right now, a big and growing-bigger soup of potential, as yet not concentrated among agenda-­setting power players. What’s more, while growing tribes of early adopters and trend spotters opt in to a living-lab–like pilot of relatively primitive IoT applications, no one knows for certain which forms, functions, designs, and engineered solutions will have legs. The pace of change, you see, is too fast for any single home technology to be considered “a keeper.” Iyer writes:

“It could be difficult to determine the challenges and most effective business opportunities for companies looking to move into the space. But by mapping the relationships between platform providers and component providers, I found parallels to the emergence of the software industry.”

The parallels Iyer spotlights form five guidelines that might engird multifamily developers’ home technology strategy and tactics in a helpful construct:

1. Watch for fragmentation;

2. Track partnerships;

3. Understand where dominance outside IoT could be extended to IoT;

4. Think infrastructure first; and

5. Use APIs to figure ways to create customer value.

Iyer’s concluding insights are valuable to a residential development and construction community that’s trying to get its collective mind around how and what home technologies residents will adapt and gravitate toward. He writes:

“What’s more, once vendors see customers use their products in combination with each other, they can then choose to explore corresponding integration strategies. For example, car companies could track app downloads to help decide a standard package for new users. Companies could also use this data to make targeted recommendations to customers for new apps, products, or services.”

In many ways, envisioning the apartment or multi­family community as a great big consumer interface offering a “user (resident) experience” via a “user interface” (home technology) suggests parallels between the development of a ­neighborhood and the development of the Internet of Things.

For instance, Wall Street Journal tech writer ­Christopher Mims’ obsession of the moment is carbon fiber, which is stronger, ounce for ounce, than steel or aluminum, but light, like the future. Mims writes:

“Marry those two technologies [carbon-fiber with 3-D printing], and things get interesting. The all-­electric BMW i3 has a carbon-fiber frame that extends [the car’s] range by making it significantly lighter. Other possibilities include light but strong parts for drones and other aircraft, as well as replacing materials in many everyday objects—from furniture to machine tools—with carbon fiber.

Isn’t change fun? It can be, when you keep pace with computer-enabled improvements in the 24/7 user interface that we call home.