Gartner recently suggested that the Internet of Things is at the peak of its hype cycle. It’s hard to disagree when we see so much media coverage of spectacular growth rates and so many speculative predictions of just how significant the long-term impact of IoT will be. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group estimates, for instance, that there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020 while global consulting firm, Accenture projects that the Industrial Internet of Things could add US$14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
Yet, Sean Paxton of Redcentric, says, look for evidence today of a wide range of businesses making substantial revenues from IoT – and it’s a lot thinner on the ground. CapGemini estimates that 70% of organisations offering IoT do not yet generate service revenues from it. Many are still running pilot schemes with little immediate return on investment. There are also still concerns about complexity and perceived data security issues.
It all serves to support the argument that when you cut through the excitement and speculation surrounding IoT, the real challenge lies underneath. Whatever innovative concepts and ideas might power the IoT vision, the key to unlocking its true potential lies in an organisation’s underlying infrastructure. Unless this is agile and resilient and delivers effective security and reliable connectivity, organisations will inevitably struggle to bring IoT applications to market quickly and profitably as their creaking infrastructures get weighed down with the vast data volumes being produced. Also, the need to connect an increasing number of network endpoints that deliver faster wireless connectively will become ever more critical as IoT gathers momentum.
If predictions of IoT growth are accurate, proliferation will impose a huge strain on enterprise networks. Many IoT applications will demand ubiquitous connectivity across multiple networks which will need to cope with unpredictable traffic volumes. Anything from a product recall to severe weather conditions will have the potential to cause peaks in traffic flow as faults and service interruptions are logged and reported. And infrastructure and associated applications may well be placed under further strain by the need to collect, move and analyse all the data generated.
Interoperable standards will also need to be developed because of the heterogeneous nature of the devices and communications protocols in use. Many IT departments will have little experience of the specific technologies and will risk connectivity and security problems by looking to go it alone.
However, perhaps the most important issue will be how an organisation adapts and enhances its distributed cloud delivery model in order to manage escalating traffic and data growth. Today’s cloud architectures may well struggle to cope with future IoT networks.
If we get to the point where there are billions of devices in play and vast numbers of data transactions taking place in real time, the idea of a mesh or edge architecture with systems and solutions talking directly to each other and handling many of their own computational tasks, could take off. This type of ‘fog computing’ – an environment where data, processing and applications are undertaken by devices around the network edge rather directly in the cloud, is already being widely proclaimed as the answer to this challenge, although concerns about security inevitably remain.
Whatever the chosen network configuration or approach, it will be difficult for businesses to go it alone. They will need the security of a technology partner who can deliver networks to the highest standards, manage services and perhaps more importantly provide consultancy and advice on future strategic direction.
So are we likely to see more opportunities for services providers as a result? The answer is yes but with the proviso that they will need the experience and vision to fill the gap between the idea and the practical application. The IoT will only really start to fulfil its undoubted potential when it is commercially attractive and for this to happen, putting in place a flexible resilient and secure infrastructure is always the vital first step.
The author of this blog Sean Paxton, product manager, Redcentric