The Internet of Things continues to gain momentum – at least in the opinion of countless market forecasters. Counting the number of devices that will be connected to the Internet by 2020, analysts have variously estimated the total at 212 billion (IDC), 75 billion (Morgan Stanley), 50 billion (Ericsson, Cisco, ABI Research), 26 billion (Gartner) – impressive numbers all, despite the variation, which suggest the advent of an innovation era in which digital technologies form the basis for new levels of productivity and new services.
According to now released volume 5 in the InsightaaS Viewpoint document series, Collabmobilicloud: Interplay in IoT, this momentum has been fuelled by a technical advance on a number of fronts. While progress in the miniaturization of microprocessors has supported their embed in an increasingly wide range of sensor devices, the development and extension of communications networks has enabled near ubiquitous broadband, WiFi and other connectivity media, and computing innovation has cut the cost and increased the speed of processing, extending the capability of computers to manage the enormous amounts of data generated by IoT projects. More specifically, the collaboration between ‘things’ (M2M), things and people, and people, process and things that IoT represents, has been enabled by advanced Internet connectivity (IPv6, with new address capacity to name/identify the explosion of IoT devices), the development of mobile networks – LTE, 4G, 5G cellular and WiFi to address mobile devices need for more speed and more data – which will also handle increasing IoT traffic, and the establishment of cloud service provider infrastructure for central data processing and remote app delivery – in other words, the key technology components of ‘Collabmobilicloud’. As the new InsightaaS document notes,
“IoT is Collabmobilicloud on steroids: while the merging of mobile and cloud technologies are powering new levels of collaboration and productivity for an emerging mobile workforce, IoT represents an opportunity to leverage cloud and mobile to extend this collaboration to the machine world.“
At the same time, IoT continues to reside in the realm of anticipation rather than mass adoption – at the top of the “peak of inflated expectation” in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for 2014 and 2015, and hence five to ten years away from mainstream, at least in the Gartner schema. So with the required technology in place, and increasingly vocal vendor and analyst community champions, what is inhibiting broader implementation? Collabmobilicloud: Interplay in IoT outlines a number of market inhibitors, including inability to envision the IoT use case, lack of leadership on IoT investment, the high cost of sensors, or security concerns associated with connecting multiple devices to corporate network. But the document focuses on challenges associated with solution thinking in IoT implementation as the greatest hurdle, a product in turn of a fragmented vendor landscape and “the nature of the IoT beast itself. IoT is not a technology that may be delivered by a single vendor, rather it is a collection of sensor devices, network connectivity and data analytics targeted at a unique, often vertically-focused problem in search of a horizontal platform.” Would-be IoT implementers are faced with a multiplicity of devices from different manufacturers that run on proprietary protocols, and typically daunted by the need to stitch together different networking standards used in back haul of data across the solution for centralized cloud processing. Additionally, new thinking is required on the most appropriate architecture for specific use cases – the type of IoT collaboration that would provide the most efficient outcome – M2M, device-to gateway, local processing, or direct device-to-cloud communications are all options for different implementation scenarios.
These issues are attracting increased attention and inspiring hard work towards the creation of new standards, products and services that will allow devices to connect, interact and share information with other devices or systems. While a number of groups/coalitions described in the document, are working towards the development of common IoT standards, other organizations are engaged in the establishment of IoT platforms (often cloud-based) that can deliver the interoperability required in building seamless IoT solutions. Still others are developing new products that can ease deployment, reducing complexity that remains a barrier to broader implementation. As examples, the document points to rugged PCs that perform as IoT devices at the mobile edge, and the new, purpose built IoT gateway introduced by Dell, a small, wireless connected device that collects, secures and processes sensor data locally to enable the users to conserve network bandwidth, increase data control and reduce latency in data-driven decisioning that might be associated with cloud processing. Built on an open platform, the Dell gateway also enables integration with OT (operational technology) systems for the aggregation of data from across partner systems.
So what is driving these efforts to push the hype cycle closer to productive reality? While conventional definitions of ROI may apply in this emerging market, experimentation with IoT solutions are demonstrating a wealth of new approaches to productivity enhancement that were unimagined in the past, and seemingly limited only by our imagination. For more on connecting cattle, tracking disease, autonomous vehicle mining and balance at sea, connect with Collabmobilicloud: Interplay in IoT here.