In the old Palm headquarters in Silicon Valley and just down the block from Echelon, the company that was the leader in enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) before we even had the acronym, Dell took up the “connect the world” rally cry, with Intel close by its side, in a credible effort to corner the next-generation IoT market. Intel, which is also headquartered nearby, has had a massive push going in this this area for some time, with some of the most advanced sensor efforts, and it’s been struggling against an aging infrastructure of distributors who don’t want to learn new skills or use new tools, no matter how much better.
Dell and Intel plan to change this outlook with their new IoT Lab, located in one of their newest Executive Briefing Centers and implementation labs.
Silicon Valley Legacy
If you are going to open a business-focused effort on the Internet of Things, there likely is no better place than Silicon Valley, because of the many related resources and capabilities there. As noted above, Echelon, a firm founded by legendary telecommunications pioneer Ken Oshman, set the initial bar for business automation and set the bar for IoT efforts for business.
This is also where Palm was born, which took the concept of a handheld computer and made it into a real product, extending the vision that created the Apple Newton into a level of success that equaled that of the iPod and iPhone at its peak. It is in the first true Palm Headquarters, the one that Palm occupied when it had a valuation that exceeded General Motors, that Dell has established its IoT Lab.
Intel is headquartered here and has been building its impressive IoT effort for some time with an extensive sensor effort that is believed to be market leading, technically speaking. The Silicon Valley is where companies like Apple and HP were created out of garages and where everything should be connected. It only makes sense that someone wanting to lead in this effort would locate here.
Dell’s Lab is a testing location; it has an impressively large number of these, where technology is developed and customers can come in to validate that Dell’s solutions will work at their site. One of the showcases was using a head-mounted display and camera, as it would be used for quality control on an assembly line, much like it will be used by one of the big U.S. car makers to better monitor the quality process and avoid the massive number of recalls the industry has been experiencing of late.
But the dreams go farther: integrated solutions cutting across Dell’s hardware and software offerings to secure and automate office buildings, factories, and hospitals to reduce operating costs, improve safety, increase quality and improve production. At its heart is what Dell has learned with thin client technology, distributing intelligence while massively reducing complexity and making sure the result is adequately secure so no attacker can do harm to the entity from outside or inside the company. This has the potential to grow into one of Dell’s most impressive efforts, even though it was a little undercooked at this launch.
Wrapping Up: IoT Going Mainstream
Whether it is Dell or some other company, the elements of a successful IoT effort are embracing existing interconnection standards, experience, a solutions focus, and the technical breadth to understand the entire solution. In the business space, this typically requires a vendor in Dell’s class because smaller firms just won’t have the breadth or needed contacts. Dell is joined by its peer firms in this effort and, before long, we will likely be up to our armpits in devices that talk to each other and to the network. This showcases the final critical component: security. Here, Dell and Intel together form a powerful combination because Intel has McAfee, the only security company connected down into the silicon, which will likely be a huge competitive differentiator due to the risk of some hostile entity taking over a firm’s connected network.
Watch this space: Intel and Dell are playing the long game and if they can execute together (and they clearly have in the past), they could end up as the new lead vendors for the business class of IoT.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+