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A note about Enterprise IoT Insights… last orders at the bar, the party is moving on

This is difficult to write.

It is a pivotal moment for IoT, and we think – the team at Arden Media, publisher of RCR Wireless News and Enterprise IoT Insights thinks – that it will not survive. At least, not as we know it, or as we think we know it – as a standalone technology in its own right, which will change industry and save the world, and which deserves its own dedicated news publication. If there is one thing 2022 told us about IoT, finally, it is that IoT is not the whole story. Like, duh?  

In case you haven’t noticed already, Arden Media has taken the decision to retire Enterprise IoT Insights as a news publication. This is not, actually, a reflection of what this title stood for, or of the content it produced during the past seven years – which told, in technical detail and in characterful fashion, about an outward-looking and influential sub-division of the wireless comms industry, interfacing in a deeper way with the rest of the world.

But it may be viewed as a criticism of its original remit to make a publishing business out of a highly-critical but also highly-fragmented tech movement. Its fatal error was threefold: to suppose that IoT would be all-things to all-industries, the king-tech to drive digital change; that one publication, with a skeleton crew, could cover its application in every industrial vertical; and that each of these would be interested to read what each other was doing.

In its defence, Enterprise IoT Insights dodged the first charge by writing about tech-geared transformation of industry by-any-means. Pick your poison; call it industrial IoT, Industry 4.0, smart-whatever – the reality is IoT is everything and nothing. It is a shorthand for the whole connected global economy, sprung by all kinds of technologies, and a precise descriptor for all the critical edge componentry to put these technologies on the road and into the field. 

The point is IoT is not the thing itself. The ‘things’ acronymized in IoT are even less the thing, actually, than ‘the internet’. But the whole concept of IoT is over-valued. Digital change is not about the sensor (which is only brought to life by other technologies), or even the application (which brings these technologies together). In the end, the thing is the use case, which is made valuable by the enterprise – which is different almost every time, in every industry.

So IoT is a straitjacket on its own; it does not serve anyone to buy or sell, or write about, only IoT – about just edge-based hardware, software, and connectivity. True, blueprints are being written for vertical applications of all-power IoT use cases, spurred by the private 5G push into critical industry; but each of these acknowledge that careful customisation is required. IoT cannot be separated from the application, nor divorced from the enterprise.

Which, in its coverage, Enterprise IoT Insights always understood, and sought to explore. It might offer a defence against the second charge, too, on the grounds it made a decent fist of covering different sectors (notably, given its resources) – by leaving consumer IoT to the gadget press, sidelining the education and hospitality sectors as broadband markets, pulling back from smart cities as a basket case, and focusing on hard-nosed Industry 4.0.

But the third charge, to keep a galaxy of enterprise readers reading about alien enterprises, was decisive. Maybe there was a way to do it, but we didn’t know how. Mea culpa. But, but, but… Enterprise IoT Insights lives on, just somewhere else – on RCR Wireless News, its original parent publication, which is a bigger editorial platform for its tales of digital change and derring-do. Same team, same approach, same content, different site – everything in one place.

It is a move that reflects what the tech market has finally discovered for itself – that, as we said, IoT is not the whole story, and should not be presented as such. Enterprises do not want IoT for the sake of IoT – any more than they want 5G for the sake of 5G. These are tools in the box, pieces in the puzzle; enterprises want to know how they might use them to assemble a vision of the future. Which explains the consolidation in the market – where big telcos are outsourcing IoT to nimbler operatives, which are combining on the whole solution-set.

It is instructive, albeit anecdotal, that this notice is being written between meetings at IoT Solutions World Congress (IOTSWC) in Barcelona – which has a claim, like any number of IoT events, to be the headline date in the IoT conference calendar. The show is a let down, on first impressions. There is a familiar jostle and squeeze on the path from the metro to the Fira, spilling out of the L8 carriages, up the escalators, and into the late winter sun. 

But all the signage is for Integrated Solutions Europe (ISE), the big annual audio visual fair, which occupies the main halls of the Fira like an MWC monster-mash. The security at the gate sends us on our way. ‘IoT is at the back,’ they say. ‘Around the other side.’ And it is on the other side – all the way around from where the show’s doors have opened previously, past long queues for ISE, to the very rear of hall 4, where the first IOTSWC signage appears. 

Like an apology, a last promotional gasp, some kind of admission that IoT has failed as a big money-spinning industry marketing fest. Crumbs; all that talk of maturity – that IoT has grown-up, at last. (It has.) All those late-2022 exits and acquisitions, written about almost like it is a seller’s market. It isn’t, of course. No one in IoT is making very much money, logic says. Trust the process, that massive IoT will come to pass? Patience is wearing very thin.

But IOTSWC remains a good show, still. Inside hall 4, the talk is that it is busier than last year, in fact. The speeches on stage and the conversations on the floor are really interesting; there is enough blue-eyed excitement in here to think there may yet be a big pay-day at the end of it all, when the economy is changed and the planet is saved. ST Micro is here, hosting Wireless Logic and Kigen, plus others; so is AWS, with Siemens, Software AG, and more.

Say that again? That’s right: AWS is hosting Siemens – at an IoT event, to talk about Industry 4.0. Their stands are the busiest, by far. But The Things Industries is on tour in Barcelona, too, an interloper in the home of cellular, with its Wall-of-Fame display of LoRaWAN hero-devices drawing steady interest. The point is these are the best booths, and maybe the best companies, because they unite a desperate IoT village that wants to raise a difficult IoT child.

IoT is like a cult act in the big tech stage play. It is like Television, the New York punk band that is being talked about because its lead guitarist has just died. Maybe IOTSWC is its Marquee Moon – to be forever overshadowed by the U2-style stadium rock of ISE and MWC, but influential in its own way. Television sold fewer records, but launched more bands – to paraphrase a cliche about another New York group. Maybe it is the same for the IoT movement.

What is clear from a publishing point of view, however, is that IoT cannot stand alone, anymore. In RCR Wireless News, Arden Media already has a long-established and market-leading tech-trade publication, which has also moved its traditional cellular coverage to address adjacent sectors. IoT – whatever that is – goes in here. The tech supplier market has given up on building its own rarefied vertical domain expertise, except via partnerships, and so have we.

Instead, RCR Wireless News will cover all of the horizontal tech stack – including cellular, importantly – as it is levered into industry, including the telecoms industry itself, and also by the telecoms industry, alongside a whole supplier ecosystem jostling for position. The old Enterprise IoT Insights newsbeat is anyone’s game; the mainstream telco trade press is covering private 5G now like it is a novel pursuit. And so it is right RCR Wireless News has IoT in its corner.

James Blackman.

Please note: RCR Wireless News will continue to run the same bi-weekly newsletters on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to direct readers interested in the Industry 4.0 story – industrial IoT, private networks, industrial AI, robotics and automation, smart-verticals – to the right content on the RCR Wireless News website. This will, effectively, be a like-for-like replacement of the old Enterprise IoT Insights newsletter. Watch this space, also, for further developments around Arden Media’s enterprise-related content.


James Blackman
James Blackman
James Blackman has been writing about the technology and telecoms sectors for over a decade. He has edited and contributed to a number of European news outlets and trade titles. He has also worked at telecoms company Huawei, leading media activity for its devices business in Western Europe. He is based in London.