Q&A – What you didn’t know about the Internet of Things

David Peacock

What exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT) and why is it important to business?
It seems we are now heading toward the “Internet of Things (IoT)” – a concept that extends beyond what we’ve witnessed thus far, which has basically been an “Internet of Computers”. IoT is being described in many different ways, but it’s still worth trying to pin down a single definition; let’s go for the interconnection of uniquely identifiable, embedded or dedicated function computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Wearable health monitors, smart thermostats and intelligent lighting are all examples of the IoT that we can relate to.

We expect the IoT to be utilised by many businesses. The use cases are still being discovered and developed. Take smart metering by utility companies, as an example. They can keep a close and accurate eye on our domestic consumption and use data to improve grid fault location, and can also create more efficient wholesale and local market mechanisms. As a result, we can expect improved customer satisfaction, which will then lead to increased revenue.

Also, as we begin to create solutions that help us realise the dream of ‘connected transport’, we will be able to develop more efficient and safer transport systems for road, and public transport systems, again leading to better customer service and satisfaction.

Why has it suddenly become important/popular? Why has its time now come?

Things have been connected to the Internet long before we called it the Internet. Today’s IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet. The difference is that we can now make connected things much smaller, pack them with sensors and make them very power efficient.

As a result, the IoT’s time has come as we can now cost-effectively manufacture or embed systems into an unimaginable array of systems, devices, and objects.

How will the Internet of Things applications enhance business? What new business models should we expect to see coming from this?

The traditional business strategies of differentiation, cost leadership, and focus still hold true today. For those industries or businesses that are increasingly connected and leveraging IoT and machine-to-machine communication, those three strategies become mutually reinforcing. This allows the creation and capture of value. Industries and businesses that stick to traditional business models may find themselves impacted by competitive innovators and nimble start-ups that will cause disruption as they take advantage of the IoT.

What are the big issues surrounding the tech? (Data protection/Security/Capacity/etc.)

The key to gaining maximum benefit from the IoT will be the on-going development of innovative ideas to capture and deliver information from physical objects.

However, the diversity of wired and wireless connectivity standards that will be required to enable different application needs will no doubt add an extra layer of complexity.

Power technology will also be critical, as many IOT devices may need to run for months, if not years, on batteries. As such, efficient energy consumption will be critical.

Last but not least, because of the colossal numbers of “things” that will be connected via the Internet, protecting user data and manufacturers’ property – whether intellectual or physical – will be paramount.

How does the Internet of Things interplay with other technologies such as cloud, big data, social and mobile?

IoT applications require end-to-end solutions that depend on robust and secure cloud services.

Even the most conservative forecasts for the growth of IoT imply that we’ll have tens of billions of connected “things” before the end of this decade. Big Data might have been an over used term in recent years, but frankly, the plethora of information that will cascade over our ever-growing IoT world means we’re heading for really, really, Big Data!

Turning really, really Big Data into information that can provide valuable insight into the universe of things will be essential.

Cloud services are clearly where the majority of the data will be collected, housed and crunched. Presentation and interaction of the insight will be on mobile first, which leads us to ask: How long will it be before the interaction between different solutions is mobile-only?

The author is David Peacock, head of Mobile at Portal – the business and technology consultancyAs head of Mobile at Portal, David is responsible for managing our team of mobile application developers and consultants and advising companies on developing and implementing mobile strategies. David was previously head of Service Delivery at Portal, responsible for delivering large-scale projects with a number of our enterprise clients. 

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