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Showing and helping: how to grow the Internet of Things

Girl playing with Good Night LampSource: Alexandrea Dechamps Sonsiono

On March 8th-9th, the result of the last four years of my career will come together at the Bosch ConnectedExperience. When I closed Tinker back in December 2010 we were one of a very small number of smart product development studios around. It was difficult to let it go and let go of the idea that that type of work was too difficult to support. So I started to work on creating the conditions for success in London around the Internet of Things. Through a number of client engagements, and my own Good Night Lamp projects I think we’re almost at the stage where creating a connected product is now easier to plan, to promote and (hopefully) to finance.

Knowing what the problems are

Back in late 2013, Maurizio Pilu commissioned me and Pilgrim Beart to write a report on what the Internet of Things community’s needs were for the yet to be opened Digital Catapult. I’d been running the London Internet of Things Meetup since November 2011 and along with a consultation workshop we identified a few key elements: technical support, corporate partnerships and finance.

Off the back of the report, I designed and ran Boost for the Catapult, the first stab at a day dedicated to helping start-ups access technical support. The partnership and finance piece was still missing though.

The next year, with Nominet R&D I helped design the Smart Oxford Challenge in September 2015 which aimed at supporting smart cities start-ups. They met with experts from across the competencies you’d need if you were building a smart product and in the evening we organized a showcase to city councilors, the ideal customers for some of these ideas. The companies were able to build a broader network for what they were doing over a day in ways that would have usually taken a start-up six months. So we at least managed to get these start-ups in front of future stakeholders and customers, but partners are a different thing.

In November 2015, I organized a showcase of Internet of Things start-up at City Hall which will hopefully turn into a more long-lasting relationship. The City of London has to be able to see that there is enough activity in this sector to warrant financially supporting these types of businesses with public money and grants. The fact that companies like the Food Network and KemuriSense struggle to find funding is ridiculous.

The best way to find solutions: exchanging ideas

This leads me to next week’s Bosch ConnectedExperience. This is my first time working with Bosch, arguably one of the most important consumer and industrial manufacturer out there and I’m very pleased that we’re replicating some of the spirit of Boost and Smart Oxford Challenge.

The business is extremely curious about what is going on in start-ups and with developers. So if you come along, concurrent with an amazing conference track I’ve curated with Peter Bihr, there will be 30 minute confidential clinics for start-ups and an opportunity for developers to test out Bosch’s first Internet of Things developer tools in the connected cars, industrial services, sensors and manufacturing sectors. That kind of openness and curiosity is part of what makes working with them on this event really great. I’m excited about the potential support and progress that start-ups will be able to make because of this event and moreover the collaborations and investments that may take place.

Developing connected products is challenging, but these types of events hopefully act as mini-accelerators for a start-up at the early stage. And the tide will lift all boats thanks to the interest and investment of companies like Bosch.

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