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10 companies making the Internet of Things a reality

Cisco's recent Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona made one thing clear: the IoT is quickly becoming a reality.

The first ever Internet of Things World Forum was held in Barcelona over the last week of October. If there was any doubt, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a very real trend and it's just a matter of time before IoT has a significant impact on the way we live our lives. These were the top 10 companies on display at the World Forum, many of which are helping IoT move from vision to reality.

10. Freescale  Freescale Semiconductor is an IoT enabler that makes embedded processing solutions for automotive, consumer and industrial markets. Freescale has a variety of technologies, such as microprocessors, microcontrollers, sensors and integrated circuits, that can be considered the foundational components of IoT. Freescale technologies are currently being used in connected cars, medical equipment, consumer appliances and energy management solutions.

9. Grundfos – This IoT-related company is a leader in advanced pump solutions and touts itself as a "trendsetter" in water technology. When I first saw this, I thought it was a bit boring, but heck, we all need water and the more efficiently it can be processed and made available, the better off the world is. Grundfos has holistic water management and pump solutions that can communicate the status of water processing and automatically adapt when required. The company also provides a significant amount of data that can be further analyzed for ongoing improvements.

8. Rockwell Automation – In the 80s, a band called Rockwell did a song with the enigmatic Michael Jackson called “Somebody’s watching me.” This company is aptly named, as Rockwell Automation provides solutions that are used to watch plant floors and make them more efficient. Rockwell brings the IoT to the factories and other industrial environments through network-connected equipment that can automate processes, predict failures and improve the overall efficiency of industrial environments.

7. Zebra Technologies – This is another company that has been involved with IoT initiatives now for many years. Zebra offers both products and services that give a company's assets, people or transactions a "virtual voice" that can be heard by an analytics platform to unlock hidden potential. The company has a wide portfolio of IoT-related products as well, including RFID printing and encoding, sensor technologies and location information.

6. Bosch – In addition to being the appliance vendor of choice for my pretty little wife, Christine Kerravala (we now have an all-Bosch kitchen), Bosch has a huge software division that designs and develops software specifically for IoT applications. Bosch has focused initiatives in the areas of mobility, energy management and manufacturing, where the underlying Bosch software is used as a platform for a wide variety of IoT-related projects.

5. Schneider Electric – When it comes to IoT, there may be no company that has been doing it longer than Schneider. The company offers a wide variety of energy management solutions that can help make buildings, cities and companies smarter. Over the past few years, Schneider has moved away from proprietary protocols and has leveraged the power of IP to allow its technology to communicate over a common network and make any Schneider customer among the most energy efficient with smart lighting, elevator and other types of solutions.

4. AGT International – For cities that want to take advantage of IoT, AGT International offers a product called its "Urban Shield Platform" that powers its Safe City solution. This platform includes law enforcement and traffic management applications to help make cities more secure and stable so its citizens feel safer. Urban Shield is an open platform that collects information from sensors, such as video and face recognition, license plate readers and social network sites. Some individuals, such as Aaron Hernandez, might view this as a bit big brotherish, but I think most people would rather have a safer environment to work, play and learn.

3. City of Barcelona – Best known for its soccer team or the city that annually hosts Mobile World Congress, this city has taken a leadership position demonstrating how cities can benefit from IoT. The walking that was part of the conference took us past smart parking meters, where citizens can find open parking spaces via a smartphone application. The meters communicate their status via city-wide WiFi and then the application provides the users with actionable recommendations of where to park. The tour also went by a smart bus stop that provides riders with real-time updates on big screens at the stop to make the travel experience optimal. The city is also outfitted with environmental sensors that can report real-time temperature, noise, humidity and gas levels that can be triggered on certain thresholds.

2. SAP – SAP is best known as the company that provides high-quality enterprise software that helps enterprise customers make decisions based on analysis of its data. Well, the same software, such as the Big Data Analytics Platform Hana, can be used to analyze data gathered in the "smart vending machine" or "smart water pump" the company was showing off at the show.

1. Cisco – Conference host Cisco set the stage for the event with keynotes from many senior executives, including CEO John Chambers and head of Globalization Wim Elfrink. Cisco had on a full line of network gear, including a number of ruggedized, embedded and outdoor network devices that can help connect the unconnected. During his keynote, Chambers positioned Cisco as being “all in” with regards to IoT and will be investing billions of dollars into this area, including the funding of startups over the next five years.

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