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How the Midwest could become be the epicenter for IoT

For tech communities outside of Silicon Valley, there is a lot of talk about how to be “the next Silicon Valley,” the theory being that all the talent and capital flows in that direction.

However, there are so many things about Chicago that make it a unique tech hub, including our proximity to a large number of Fortune 500 companies, depth in B2B technology and prominence in IoT.

Last March, the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) created the ITA IoT Council, a cross-disciplinary group of leaders from the technology industry and academia, as well as consumers and civic leaders to collaborate towards driving the growth and use of Internet of Things technologies. It’s goal is to advance IoT technology, policy and industry and establish Chicago and the Midwest as an epicenter of IoT.

Given our history, the Midwest is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in IoT, more so than any other significant platform shift of the past 20 years. Why?

  1. Manufacturing - The Midwest is the core of the nation’s manufacturing base, which is making a comeback. The efforts of UILabs DMDII are based on the belief that digital technologies will minimize the cost discrepancy with labor intense countries. IoT will require manufacturing prowess to build the devices that are necessary to enable this shift.

  2. Software - Chicago has a rich history in software development, especially around transformative industries. Chicago is the intellectual base of software centered on solving business problems - a necessary ingredient for a leadership position in IoT.

  3. Data Analytics - No community has seen a stronger aggregation of data analytics companies over the past 30 years. From SPPS to IRI and many in between, Chicago is home to both the collection of data and the analysis of it.

  4. Customers - Chicago has a strong base in the industrial, healthcare, retail, automotive, and agricultural markets. All are leveraging M2M (machine-to-machine) technology, the precursor to the Internet of Things.

  5. Government Commitment - The City of Chicago is emerging as a clear leader in the Smart City space. It is focused on using technology and data to make it as efficient and responsive as possible to both citizen and business needs.

The interest level surpassed our expectations: More than 200 companies are now involved, which supported the formation of additional committees:

  • Talent/Education: Address the talent needs for IoT companies, as well as students interesting in pursuing careers in IoT

  • Policy: Understand and influence local policy to create a “pro-IoT” environment

  • Summit: Grow and strengthen the annual IoT Summit

We’ve recently completed and plan to release the first draft of our IoT inventory. After evaluating hundreds of companies, the IoT Council identified approximately 70 companies focused on IoT technology that are based in the Midwest. The inventory showcases the breadth and depth of IoT in Chicago and the Midwest.

We also hosted our third – and largest – Internet of Things Summit. Over 550 people attended the event, which focused on trends and considerations in IoT. We also launched a capital conference, matching investors up with up-and-coming IoT companies.

We are often asked if it’s difficult to bring these disparate groups--academic, business, and government leaders--to collaborate. The truth is that on the subject of IoT they are aligned.

Our IoT Council and the broader IoT community within Chicago are all passionate and committed to making Chicago and the Midwest shine. Since creating the goup a year ago, , we’ve established regular committee meetings and have plenty of work to do, especially around policy and talent.


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