NC RIoT V Meetup 2015

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Matthew Davis is VP of Product Marketing at Reveal, a mobile audience platform. He’s the founder and co-chair of NC RIoT, joined by Larry Steffann, GM of the Wireless Research Center of NC. 

One year ago we held the first RIoT, a meetup of local Internet of Things enthusiasts. 80 people showed up, exceeding my expectations by 60 people. The group heard from four speakers, guzzled cheap beer and talked IoT all night long. 
 
Last Thursday night and one year later, we hosted RIoT V: Building NC’s IoT Leadership and Verizon’s IoT Strategy. Over 350 people filled two separate sessions while imbibing NC State-brewed beer and filling Hunt Library to a capacity, standing-room only crowd.
 
RIoT V began with a sold-out workshop, drawing 90 people to the Monteith Research Center on NC State’s Centennial Campus. We crammed into ASSIST’s festive and functional space, breaking into three working sessions to address IoT’s technical challenges, marketing hurdles and analytics issues. The teams documented problems, solutions and concrete next steps. 

Matthew Davis, at podium, and Larry Steffann, right, are co-chairs of the NC RIoT Meetup.
Matthew Davis, at podium, and Larry Steffann, right, are co-chairs of the NC RIoT Meetup.
The main event at Hunt Library kicked off at 6pm. Tom Snyder of NCSU’s ASSIST program, the host for RIoT V, literally (well, not literally) blew people’s minds.  Through its partnership with the National Science Foundation, students and professors are developing next-generation wearable sensors powered by body heat and motion. My vision of self-charging smart pants may finally come true. 

The truth is that their work potentially revolutionizes healthcare. The innovations stemming from this NSF grant will allow our community to lead the way in wearables, specifically in regards to health care applications. The question becomes, will our community seize this opportunity when the ASSIST program technology becomes marketable?
 
The workshop teams then took the stage to present their findings. Sharing this with the audience gets the entire IoT community thinking about how we brand and promote our past, present and IoT future, as well as our numerous success stories. More on this below. 

The most compelling output across the three workshops will be to develop an IoT Services Directory. Bringing an IoT product to market requires many skills, most of which are here in our back yard. We must make these talents known to the universe if we want the world to come to North Carolina for their IoT projects. 

NC RIoT V 2015
Theresa Wong of Verizon shares her IoT group's strategies and findings at NC RIoT V June 4, 2015 at Hunt Library in Raleigh.
Our keynote speaker for the night was Verizon’s Director of Corporate Strategy for IoT Theresa Wong, who shared her division's short and long-term strategies. Startups frequently dismiss large companies as bloated entities, unable to think or move quickly, but when Verizon shares its sauce, you shut your mouth and pay attention. 
 
Theresa delivered, impressing the audience by breaking down numerous IoT verticals (think transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, retail), then exploring how Verizon plans to play in each arena. Theresa invited her colleague from Verizon Ventures Mr. Daniel Chui, who spoke on the opportunity for Verizon to invest in startups from our IoT community. He invited the audience to participate in the Verizon IoT grant contest for startups, with a top prize of $1 million.  
 

What it all means for the Triangle

But aside from a no-nonsense recap of last week's event, what’s going on here? Why did NC RIoT grow from 80 to 850+ in a single year? That’s easy...three simple things. 
  • An incredibly supportive community 
  • A hot topic 
  • The right team 
First, the people that show up make NC RIoT what it is. While the organizers help execute the logistics and shape the dialogue, the community makes or breaks our success. 
 
Second, IoT’s popularity helps. It’s a big buzzword but an even bigger opportunity. It’s top-of-mind for companies, local, state and federal governments, investors and the end consumer, even if those consumers don’t recognize their connected devices as IoT. A great data point raised during Theresa's presentation was that 95% of all C-level executives expect to implement an IoT strategy in the near future and 63% felt not implementing will create a significant disadvantage for their companies. 
 
Finally, we’ve got a team that’s just as comfortable with crafting a big vision as they are with the hands-on dirty work of pulling off an event. The core team of myself and Larry Steffann (whose Wireless Research Center and IoT incubator are featured in the video below) expanded to include Tom Snyder from the ASSIST program at NC State. All put in well over 50 hours of volunteer time to make RIoT V happen. 

 
Yet, there’s been something missing. Sometimes a question hits you like a punch to the gut, leaving you stunned and gasping for breath, which exposes the gap. 

Ten months ago, Tom asked, “What do you want RIoT to be when it grows up?”. Humbled, I hadn’t thought beyond a future of more Powerpoints, networking and beer. 
 
After months of planning and five hours of RIoTing Thursday night, we’ve got a clear answer now. 
 
We exist to promote our region’s IoT companies, thought-leaders, luminaries and success stories. 
 
We exist to foster collaboration between business, university, government, military, healthcare and everything in between. 
 
We exist to claim the “Center of the IoT universe” title for the Triangle and the state. Tall order, but likely the most exciting challenge our team and community can be working on today.