Saturday, September 5, 2015

Apple v. Google v. Samsung IoT Smart Home Strategy Insights from Patents

Patents can provide insights regarding the state of the art of IoT (Internet of Things) innovation, and thus, a strategic move of a company for the IoT business leadership. To compare the business strategy of the three leading companies in the IoT Smart Home applications, Apple, Google and Samsung, patent information is exploited for the cross-competitor analysis.

According to Dr. Benjamin Gilad with the Academy of Competitive Intelligence, the goal of the cross-competitor analysis is to enable one to simplify predictions of competitors’ moves and countermoves when multiple competitors are involved. Through the cross-competitor analysis, one can understand that: Competitors’ behavior when there are several significant competitors; Paradigm shifts in industries undergoing rapid change or transition; Entry of new competitors into the competitive landscape; Future directions in strategic move among industry contenders. The strategic map is a tool used in the cross-competitor analysis for visualizing the competitive landscape: A chart for a strategic parameter No.1 (e.g. product/service portfolio, distribution channel etc.) vs. a strategic parameter No.2 (e.g. product/service price, quality, brand etc.); The map is static (for dynamics, one can use arrows).

To do the cross-competitor analysis for the IoT Smart Home exploiting patents, more than 300 US patent published applications of Apple, Google and Samsung that are related to the IoT Smart Home applications are reviewed. To obtain the strategic parameters for the IoT Smart Home, a system approach to the IoT patents is adopted. The disclosures of the IoT patent can be considered as a system that is consist of several subsystems: environmental context, IoT sensor, information, transfer mean and processing tool.

A.  Environmental context is the context of the surrounding object(s) sensed by the IoT sensor. Some examples are a person’s or vehicle’s location or movement, surround environments (lighting, weather)/situations, and works to be done.

B. IoT sensor is a stand-alone or embedded device that can sense/recognize its surrounding environments (including position/movement/identification) with networking capability. Some examples are RFID imbedded items, sensor embedded home appliances, wearable healthcare devices and vehicle control system.

C. Information is the context data obtained by the IoT sensor for specific purpose. For example, the context room temperature is measure to obtain the data for automatic room temperature control.

D. Transfer mean is the networking/communicating medium/infrastructure that can interconnect sensing devices and connect sensing devices to the internet. Some examples are 3G/4G/5G mobile networks, wireless connectivity (WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, NFC etc.), internet/telephone connectivity and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity.

E. Processing tool is the back-end or embedded (IoT devices, wearable devices) IT systems/processors that can process the context information (e.g. cloud computing/big data analytics) and provide the value propositions exploiting the information. Some examples of the IoT value propositions are:

·        Automation: Providing various automation services for the customers’ job/task to be done (e.g. automatically order the detergent for a laundry machine)
·        Care: Caring for customers (e.g. monitor customers’ body status and provide various health care services; control customer’s home cooling and heating/lighting system for energy savings; home security system for safe and comfortable home environments )
·        Entertainment: Providing fun to customers (e.g. AV systems, virtual reality games)

The IoT patent system can include the system integration subsystem that integrate and manage the functionality of each subsystem as a whole.

Each disclosures of more than 50 key patents for the IoT Smart Home applications selected from the review are divided into the IoT patent subsystems, and then, counted the numbers of patents for each value propositions (automation, care, entertainment), context (position/movement, environment/situation, job/task, and tools (mobile/wearable devices, IoT specific devices, appliances).

Following figure shows the Activity Index vs. value propositions strategic map for Apple, Google, and Samsung. The size of the circle represents the total number of the patents for each value proposition. Activity Index is a measure of a company’s relative innovation activities in a specific innovation field: Activity Index = share of a specific innovation sub-class in a company/share of a company’s patent in total patents, where share of a specific innovation sub-class in a company = patents (innovation sub-class)/patents (a company) and share of a company’s patent in total patents = patents (a company)/patents (total company).

The map shows Google’s select and focus strategy for providing the care value proposition. The map shows that Apple is most active in the automation value proposition innovation compare to Samsung and Google, even if Apple’s number of patent applications is smaller than that of Google and Samsung.

Following figure shows the Activity Index vs. tools/context for the value propositions strategic map for Apple, Google, and Samsung. The size of the circle represents the total number of the patents for each tools/context.

The map shows that Apple is not active in the innovation of IoT specific devices/systems for providing the IoT Smart Home value propositions (indicates that Apple’s HomeKit Platform was developed by a third party?).

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