Editor’s note: NC RIoT, the organization focusing on driving Internet of Things opportunities in the Triangle and across the state, has much to celebrate as 2015 draws to a close. But 2016 looks promising as well starting with a strong N.C. presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In the first of two articles written at the request of WRAL TechWire and exclusively for our readers, Larry Steffann of the Wireless Research Center in Wake Forest and Matthew Davis of Reveal Mobile, offer an in-depth look at the state of IoT.

RALEIGH, N.C. – 2015 was a big year for the Internet of Things globally, nationally, and here locally in the Triangle. While getting devices to communicate with one another has existed for decades, only recently have we seen this concept of IoT begin to blossom. As the cost of sensors drops, WiFi coverage marches towards universal, and a super-computer resides in your pocket or purse, connecting anything to the internet is much easier today than even five years ago.

The North Carolina Regional Internet of Things, abbreviated as NC RIoT, had a fantastic year as well. We grew from 80 people to over 1,200 members during 2015. By evaluating ourselves through the lens of a startup, the reasons why come into focus: great market, great product, great team.

Great Market

The number one reason for our success is our community. At the simplest level, the people that support, participate in, and attend NC RIoT events form the foundation of our group.

However, there’s a much larger ecosystem at work.

The university system plays a critical role in advancing IoT research, and delivers a talent pool that few areas in the country can match. The anchor tenants that formed the backbone of RTP are all evolving into IoT. Industry veterans like Cree, RedHat, Cisco, SAS and IBM, as well as newly formed startups like Fokus Labs, Bright Wolf, Thingovation and MiPayWay are building hardware and software products right here, right now.

The rapidly growing support system in our entrepreneurial community makes it easier to bring a new product to market. Local companies like Devices Solutions, Connected Development, and Smashing Boxes have been servicing the IoT Market for the past several years, growing headcount and building an impressive customer roster. Some of the most popular IoT products being sold this holiday season spent time at The Wireless Research Center before going to market.

“Great market” also implies that the market itself for IoT products and services is growing rapidly. When industry analysts forecast IoT to impact GPD by percentage points, people pay attention.

Great Product

When building a new business, a strong market is not not enough. People need a great product to stand behind. For NC RiOT, the product was a roster full of events with keynote speakers, panel discussions, educational forums, and the state’s first exclusively focused Internet of Things hackathon. Here are NC RIoT’s 2015 events.

●January – 2015 IoT Kickoff at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, with “The State of IoT in NC”

●March – Smart Energy and Home Automation at the Data4Decisions Conference

●June – Building NC’s IoT Leadership with a keynote delivered by Verizon’s Corporate Director of IoT Strategy. Additionally, RIoT members met for three afternoon workshops to talk through our region’s strengths and challenges.

●September – Two events at CED’s Tech Venture Conference. A series of morning panel discussions on “The Nuts & Bolts of IoT”. The evening event was “Demo Day, with over 30 companies presenting 50 IoT demos to a crowd of 400. Shark Tank alum and Unikey CEO Phil Dumas delivered an inspirational keynote.

●October – The state’s first IoT focused weekend Hackathon at NC State’s ASSIST Center. Ten teams built working prototypes, with BeerOmeter taking home the grand prize. Multiple teams earned entry into startup accelerator Groundwork Labs.

Great Team

At the top level, NC RIoT is run entirely on volunteer time. Myself and my company, Reveal Mobile, work directly with Larry Steffann of The Wireless Research Center of NC. A dedicated team of additional volunteers help keep us on track.

The volunteers, RIoT members, and the overarching culture of our group build and strengthen our events. We strive to create open events, making available demo tables and speaking opportunities to sponsors and non-sponsors alike. Sponsors participate to mentor and to make introductions, not to pitch. Their goal, and ours, is to earn the community’s trust.

The market, product, and team all come together to further NC RIoT’s mission: formalize the Triangle and our state as a global hub for IoT innovation.

What’s Next?

We kick off 2016 by heading to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 6-9. Several NC RIoT members staked their claim in Eureka Park. Together we’ll showcase a few of our state’s promising IoT companies.

Upon our return, we jump head first into big events and a new educational series, RIoT ED. First, here’s the event schedule:

  • RIoT VII – Feb 2nd, Raleigh – Smart Cities and the Global Cities Team Challenge
  • RIoT VIII – March 1st, Use Cases in IoT, HQ Greensboro
  • RIoT IX – March 24th, Raleigh, Data4Decisions Conference
  • RIoT X – May 10th, Demo Night II[1] [2]
  • RIoT XI – July, Connected Car & Marine
  • RIoT XII – September, CED’s Tech Venture Conference

We’re also planning a workshop in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the NC State ASSIST Center, currently slated for February.

The development of RIoT ED grew directly from community feedback. Engineers want to learn about, touch, and experiment with new technologies. Business leaders want more comprehensive knowledge beyond a 15 minute keynote.

RIoT ED begins with “Developer Day” on February 23. This half-day session allows engineers and developers to spend hours with new technology. They’ll get hands-on with cutting edge hardware and software from IoT industry heavyweights.

We then begin a lunch and learn series dubbed the “MBA in IoT”. These monthly events are designed for companies and individuals newer to IoT. The intended audience seeks to gain deeper knowledge of the IoT opportunity and landscape, as well as the technologies and components that create the Internet of Things.

  • RIoT ED: MBA in IoT 3/22 – IoT Opportunity and Use Cases
  • RIoT ED: MBA in IoT 4/19 – Devices
  • RIoT ED: MBA in IoT 5/17 – Data
  • RIoT ED: MBA in IoT 6/7 – Design

A big push for 2016 will be incorporating our cities, towns, counties and the state of North Carolina into the RIoT community. Together we’ll be at the forefront of smart city innovation, research, and projects. This IoT ecosystem already flourishes here, with Cary’s smart water metering system leading the way.

Are we ready to predict that 2016 will be the “Year of IoT”? Not yet, but one thing we can say with certainty. When that time comes, our state and region will be years ahead of others.  North Carolina, in many eyes, is already recognized as a center of excellence for the IoT market.

Note: Davis can be reached at mdavis@revealmobile.com; Steffann at larry.steffann@wirelesscenter-nc.org