Crossfire Media in partnership with TMC last week hosted their 16th IoT Evolution conference and exhibition in Las Vegas. Great turnout, great speakers, great timing as the Internet of Things matures into the “big leagues.”

AT&T was the super sponsor for the event, and announced their IoT Starter Kit, with both the SIM Only and SIM + Hardware versions. Interesting to see a service provider getting into the sensor business, but not without offering a 6-month developer plan including tools and RESTful APIs you need to manage LTE connections, store device data, and create new IoT applications.

IBM and Microsoft were also present, and collaborating with AT&T with out of the box compatibility with M2X, AT&T Flow, Microsoft Azure and IBM Bluemix.

Microsoft also spoke about their partnership with an ambitious five-year old company based in France (Spinalcom), sharing their work on the cognitive IoT on a panel lead by industry expert Chris Celiberti (CEO at The Infield Group).

Jérémie Bellec, the founder and CTO of Spinalcom, will be sharing his company’s approach to the “neuroscience” behind their IoT technologies. “We look at data and analytics as a nerve center that connects in real time the sensors, or actuators, with the brain,” Bellec said. “Our machines and systems are becoming more human; the analog for memory is the database, and the analog for thinking is the analytics.”

I was fortunate to join a great panel with Tristan Barnum, co-founder at Telliant and Mike Hitmar from SAS. The panel was moderated by Keith Tamboer of James Brehm & Associates, and we talked about avoiding “GIGO” (garbage in garbage out) in the data/analytics layer and about Fog computing trends generally. A huge emphasis in the show was on the “brains” behind IoT and how the massive amounts of data will need to be architecturally and strategically managed.

A few high level insights from the week from my perspective:

1. Partnership and channel strategies have never been more important – no one company can “do everything” and make IoT really work for businesses.

2. Start with the basics and actually connect “things” for useful, often mundane purposes. We heard an example about a street light deployment where the prime was so intoxicated with data/analytics that they failed to make sure the hardware and software worked properly. Keep it simple, keep it strong, then strengthen with more features was a common theme.

3. Keep it human. One of my favorite keynotes was delivered by Stamford’s Sudha Jamthe, an IoT visionary after her serial successes in e-commerce (including eBay) and social media. She has written two books on the IoT, and the wisdom she conveyed was that we cannot be only “technical” – we need to make sure solutions are intuitive, and that the relationship between machines and humans will require not only programmers, by psychologists and behavioral science experts.

Like many of the visionaries at the event, she has moved on from just “M2M’ to “IoT” and now is digging deper into the intersection of “IoT” and “RTC” and even “OTT” – where machines can trigger live human conversations to solve problems.