As I have detailed before, here, Chicago isn’t looking to become “the next Silicon Valley.” It’s a fundamental fallacy to attempt to emulate another region’s success story. The assets and liabilities afforded by the Bay Area simply cannot be grafted onto the capital of the interior and Midwest. Our assets and liabilities can and should be leveraged accordingly to create something unique. The recent downtown corporate relocations and announcements by food manufacturing giants Kraft Heinz and McDonalds are demonstrative of a unique Chicago reality. Chicago is slowly becoming an urban food manufacturing hub, again. Something the Bay Area clearly couldn’t boast. It’s iPhones to Big Macs.
All of this is proof that something is happening here in the epicenter of America’s industrial and manufacturing past. And future. Chicago has always been a city of things. We make things. We build things. We do things. Perhaps, nowhere else other than Chicago and the entire Midwest could become the epicenter of Internet of Things. You see, IoT isn’t about development, it’s about implementation.
IoT is a fundamentally different concept than most tech because it isn’t about where it’s made but where it happens. The infrastructure, transportation, and industry nexus here all combine to form an intermodal hub ripe for IoT actualization and implementation. Chicago is at the center of the east-west network of the coasts, marrying those ideals and ultimately connecting them in ways innumerable and often ignored.
For instance, about one-third of all rail traffic goes through Chicago (Source: Transportation.gov). Fittingly, Chicago is at the summit of the transportation industry and logistical development. In much the same way Chicago is leveraging its manufacturing and strong B2B roots to develop as the hub of IoT innovation. The intermodal logistical innovation and opportunity afforded by the existing framework is nearly infinite between speeding Midwest freight through bottlenecks and connecting all aspects airline operations at one of the world’s busiest airports. Chicago also has the most diversified economy in the US (Source: Moody Analytics). Admittedly, Chicago is a city of many different economic worlds. Between the gleaming glass towers of high-end corporate tenants and tech wizards of the West Loop, there is still a decidedly blue collar bungalow sensibility and trade of Chicago’s working class roots. It’s a mix of industries not seen anywhere else in the US. Finding ways to network all of these industries together synergistically is the central tenet of “the city that works.” Chicago and ultimately the Midwest are finding ways to leverage the assets of the past to propel tech and IoT into the future. Once known for corporations like Sears or Marshall Fields who sold things, Chicago now has IoT innovators like Zebra, Uptake, and Gogo who are finding innovative ways to connect things. Your grandmother has never heard of them? Well, these aren’t the glamorous West Coast social media darlings of the Zuckerbergs and Jobs of the world. These are the B2B and IoT tech leaders of tomorrow.
So, where does one find the roadmap for this confluence? ITA’s upcoming Internet of Things Summit is a good place to start (shameless self-promotional plug). Just as new towers begin to breathe life into Chicago’s downtown Loop, ITA’s upcoming IoT Summit will be an opportunity for IoT to anchor itself firmly beneath the foundations of Chicago and the Midwest. In addition to all of the knowledge sharing and networking, it is the only capital funding conference for IoT here in the Midwest and truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity you can’t miss.
I hope you can join us as we continue to grow the IoT of Chicago’s tech future