Decoding the New World of ‘Internet of Things’
It’s not so new now so I am sure all of you are plugged-in to some extent with this mega movement called ‘Internet of Things’. In simple terms, it is connecting any device you can think of to the internet with an on-off button, and can be managed via a mobile app. So from your daily coffee-maker to an airplane or an oil-drilling machine, any of these can become ‘smart’ when you want them to be.
Although Gartner estimates that by 2020 over 26B devices will be connected to the internet, there’s a prediction that if ‘things’ include people then this number might be over a 100B! So really it is machine connecting to machine, machine connecting to a person, or a person connecting to a person.
Here’s a beginner’s guide definition that I really like: “The broad idea behind these buzzwords is that a whole constellation of inanimate objects is being designed with built-in wireless connectivity, so that they can be monitored, controlled and linked over the Internet via a mobile app.
IoT Technology Gartner Hype Cycle and Future Direction
All of you know about the technology hype cycle from Gartner. The triggers, inflated expectations, trough of disillusionment, enlightenment and then finally productivity. With IoT, we are evidently at the inflated expectations and at the tip of that.
With hardware becoming a commodity, machine learning algorithms coming mainstream, software advancing and cloud becoming ubiquitous, it is prime time for IoT. But which way it is going to go? That really depends on how the industry does with it. There are various moving parts including standardization, security vulnerabilities, and intelligent systems to manage data.
The Mechanics and Architecture of ‘Internet of Things’
There’s an overwhelming amount of information around how all of this works! But here’s a simplistic world view and a few definitions without getting into any complicated jargons. First there is the communications layer say wireless radios – these allow devices to connect to the internet and to each other. Some familiar standards are Wi-Fi, NFC, RFID etc.
Second, there are things, sensors and hubs. Things are things, so your coffee maker, the airplane and the oil-rig are all things. These things communicate via sensors that are agents used to transmit the data from these things/devices. So data around movements, temperature, weather, location and behavior are transmitted via micro-chips through the things to somewhere.
And that somewhere is cloud. So third is cloud services or a cloud platformthat stores and analyzes data in the cloud so people can see what’s going on and based on certain recommended steps, people can take action on their mobile app. This platform processes and churns all the data to deliver valuable intelligence. Intelligence that will be used to solve industry specific needs. All of these components are interlinked via secure gateways.
All of this together can be called an Internet of Things (IoT Platform) which provides and standardizes languages for apps and devices to communicate with each other. So far so good? If this is confusing the watch this video, I think IBM has done a phenomenal job of decoding the mechanics. Nothing better than visual content. For those of you who want to do some digging on the IoT architecture, here’s a great video from Microsoft Services.
Source: Microsoft Azure Team
The Possibility of IoT in Every Application
As part of the growing IoT movement, there are two distinct segments that have emerged: the consumer and the industrial side of IoT. McKinsey has two broad categories for IoT applications – Information and analysis, automation and control. Information analysis mostly focused around tracking human behavior, enhancing situational awareness, and driving sensor-driven decision analytics. Automation and control is mostly focused on process optimization, resource consumption and autonomous systems.
Here are a few great infographics that will explain themselves. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more stuff that’s waiting to get connected.
Source: IoT analytics and McKinsey
New Possibilities for Solution Architects and a Growing Market in the Making
Taking the cue from Microsoft’s presentation, and the infographics above, there’s a huge market opportunity out there for not just creating an IoT smart bulb product but also architecting a brilliant IoT best practice/solution approach for an organization.
According to IDC, the worldwide market for IoT solutions will reach $7.2 trillion in 2020. The leading industry practices would be around utilities, insurance, agriculture, factory, automobiles and more. There’s a lot of thought leadership around these solutions by systems integrators already. There will be need for a new mindset to address the new challenges with data, scale, security and device proliferation. But it might be about relearning some of the best practices for the brave new IoT world and ride the hype cycle.
Some awesome IoT read references:
Good luck out there!
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