By Fred Hoch, CEO, Illinois Technology Association (ITA)


On November 16th and 17th, the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) hosted a two day summit on the Internet of Things (IoT).  Over 550 individuals attended the event which focused on trends and considerations in IoT and also featured a capital conference where investors were matched with up-and-coming IoT companies. The level of interest in this event (and others like it) help to enforce the Midwest’s position as a leader in the IoT space.

The Internet of Things is, at its most basic, the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the Internet or to each other.  Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices; some estimate this number to be closer to 100 billion.

It’s our belief that given our history, Illinois is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in IoT, more so than any other significant platform shift of the past 20 years. Why?

First, manufacturing.  The Midwest is the core of the nation’s manufacturing base, which is making a come-back. 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.

Secondly, software.  Chicago has a keen 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 this space.

Third, 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 and analysis of data.

Fourth, customers.  Chicago has a strong base in the industrial, healthcare, retail, automotive and agricultural industries, all of which have been working in M2M (machine-to-machine) technology, the precursor to the Internet of Things, for many years. As IoT is implemented, much of the early adoptions will be launched by Chicago companies.

Fifth, government commitment. The City of Chicago is emerging as a clear leader in the SmartCity space.  The city is focused on using technology and data to make it as efficient and responsive as possible to resident and business needs.  Brenna Berman, CIO, City of Chicago says, “Focusing on the IoT to drive growth and responsiveness is the next step in Mayor Emanuel’s strategy to make Chicago the most data-driven, tech-centric city.  We began with open data, are excelling with advanced analytics, and now we are building on those successes to focus on the power of connected technologies.”

Brenna also serves as the co-chair of the ITA’s IoT Council along with Don DeLoach, CEO of Infobright, a data analytics platform for the Internet of Things.  The Council is a cross-disciplinary effort bringing together leaders from over 150 companies in the technology industry, academia, as well as consumers and civic leaders, to collaborate towards driving the growth and use of Internet of Things technologies in Chicago and the Midwest.


One of the first initiatives of the Council was to create an inventory of all of the IoT companies in the Midwest.  After evaluating hundreds of companies, the IoT Council produced a first draft of nearly 70 companies based in the Midwest that are dedicated to IoT technology.  The ITA is preparing to release this data in early January and will be taking requests from additional Midwest companies that want to be considered as part of its IoT Inventory.

The ITA’s IoT Inventory categorizes companies into six categories:  Smart Product Applications, Analytics, Application Platform, Connectivity, Device Software & Hardware and System Integration. Companies in the inventory range from those with less than 50 employees, founded in the past few years, such as TempoIQ, to Zebra Technologies with more than 10,000 employees and strong presence in Illinois since the late 1960’s.

As the companies focused on IoT technology continue to grow, the application of IoT throughout a wide range of industries will grow exponentially.  With Chicago’s broad economic base and the city’s commitment to being at the forefront of data and analytics, Illinois is in a unique position to be a leader in the Internet of Things evolution.

Watch and Listen

 About the ITA Internet of Things Council


Brenna Berman, CIO of the City of Chicago and ITA IoT Council Co-Chair, on IoT and smart cities



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