Companies don’t make things

Bob Emmerson, freelance writer and telecoms industry

Companies don’t make “things”: that is not how most companies view their manufacturing activities. They make products, which is why I prefer the term “Internet of Smart Connected Products”, even though it is a bit of a mouthful.

However, having established it upfront when writing an article or white paper I normally drop “Internet of” because the Net isn’t particularly important: it’s just a transport mechanism.

The term smart connected products is easy to explain: the IoT acronym isn’t, but as long as you don’t try to deconstruct it for a third party it’s a convenient, concise way of encapsulating the concept, says Bob Emmerson, freelance writer and IoT Industry Observer.

Smart connected products are intelligent endpoint devices that process the data they acquire and transmit the results to intelligent gateways. This combination constitutes the network edge and that is where a lot of action is taking place, e.g. real-time data analytics. You surely knew that.

Companies make extensive use of clouds: it’s where they store and analyse enterprise data as well as data that is transmitted from device /gateway combinations. However, why not pitch the IoT as a combination of the central facility that companies employ and local clouds that provide real-time information on local processes to local management?

That’s a clear, concise IT marketing-centric message. Forget the way it is realised; establish the benefits of IoT before explaining the use of OT (Operational Technology), which operates in the M2M domain.

Is that obvious? Am I kicking in an open door? I think not. Vendors need cover the IoT from both perspectives, IT as well as OT. The former is predicated on the ability to drive datacenter (Cloud) functionality down to the edge and manage the devices. The OT perspective is that of enabling device data to be driven up to the Cloud.

I can’t conclude this short blog without saying something about “Fog Computing”. Cisco is credited with inventing the term and it referred to a network layer designed to reduce latency. The current case for the IoT is based on a logical extrapolation of the edge-based cloud model, i.e. an architecture that brings the cloud even closer to the end user. Any device with computing, storage, and network connectivity can be a fog node.

Doesn’t that sound like a smart connected product? There doesn’t seem to be anything new about this concept. The marketing pitch goes along the lines of the cloud being up there in the sky and the fog being close to the ground and real-time analytics. But being in a fog limits one’s ability to see the way ahead. Moreover, I’m old enough to remember UK fogs that made pavements and one’s feet invisible.

The author of this blog is Bob Emmerson, freelance writer and IoT Industry Observer

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