There is widespread agreement among the world's technology leaders that the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to drive a new industrial revolution, taking the incredible connectivity of the Internet to the next level. For Canadian entrepreneurs, there is enormous opportunity to take advantage of our nation's competitive advantages and become global leaders in the design and adoption of this emerging realm of technology.
We are already witnessing the incredible influence of the IoT in many sectors. This growing network of connected physical objects enables the collection, sharing and analysis of data to transform consumers' lives and improve business productivity. For example, we now see smart thermostats that remotely control home heating, clothing that tracks personal activity and vital signs and the use of sensors, cameras and lasers along industrial production lines to help manufacturers analyze the efficiency of their processes.
While the technology is impressive, so is the potential for Canadians to lead the field. We have world-class infrastructure and telecom networks with ample bandwidth, incredible Canadian talent and a history of successful technology and communication companies.
We have another ingredient for success, according to a recent national survey by Primus Telecommunications Canada and Ryerson University's DMZ: a homegrown market of consumers who are eager to try new technologies. In fact, this survey – one of the first and most comprehensive glimpses of Canadians' attitudes towards the IoT – found that 83 per cent of respondents are willing to try new technology to make their lives easier and 40 per cent consider themselves early adopters of technology. Since 44 per cent of Canadians say they are likely to adopt connected devices in the next two years, our own companies are well positioned to bring the next generation of the Internet to life.
The opportunity for Canadian small business The expected pervasiveness of such technology within a few years means that it will become critical for businesses of all sizes to adopt IoT technology to stay competitive and succeed in our new connected economy. But IoT can be especially lucrative for small businesses since the cost of adopting new technology is now low enough to make it viable for applications that would previously been out of reach. For example, a family farm could soon benefit from inexpensive, connected micro-sensors that monitor soil conditions and alert the farmer to optimal irrigation times.
In competitive market conditions, small businesses may have a leg up on big companies in developing offerings for the leading edge of IoT, since large corporations, while good at building products and setting standards, often struggle to develop and nurture cultures of innovation. This creates an opportunity for small businesses to focus on developing services and applications that leverage big business infrastructure, systems and products. There are already many examples of Canadian startups leading the way in the health, energy, home and manufacturing sectors.
While it's not always easy for companies to embrace new technologies, Canada is building the necessary ecosystem of infrastructure and talent to help small companies succeed, including support from government and academia. For example, the DMZ is achieving impressive results as a technology incubator that helps startups commercialize their inventions, link them with industry mentors and other disciplines, and provide access to campus research, labs and manufacturing facilities. Along with funding programs, this type of collaboration is available at many Canadian universities and represents an incredible asset for entrepreneurs to kick start their projects and bring fresh ideas to market.
All of these points demonstrate that the IoT is far more than hazy, new technology percolating in Silicon Valley or in corporate boardrooms. Rather, there is real opportunity for Canadian small business to leverage our homegrown advantages – including enthusiastic consumers and great academic partners – and lead the world in the development and commercialization of the Internet of Things.
Brad Fisher is Senior Vice President, Marketing and Product, Primus Telecommunications. An accomplished marketing and product leader with experience in delivering leading edge products and services in the wireless, video, telecom and Internet sectors in Canada and the U.S., Brad has more than 20 years' experience in telecommunications and information technology. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Western Ontario.
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