The Internet of Things is a vast, unfolding marketplace that needs a common standard to reach its full potential and enable universal participation.
With no central IoT standards and no real oversight over development, the nearly five billion smart devices Gartner* estimates will be in use by the end of this year are spread across a dizzying array of standards and protocols.
Consider that it is widely believed there will be 20 billion connected devices in a market valued at $3 trillion dollars just three years away in 2020.
IoT spans the consumer and business sides of nearly every major industry – Automotive, Banking & Securities, Building/Facilities Automation, Education, Energy, Government, Health and Fitness, Information, Manufacturing & Natural Resources, Media & Entertainment, Retail, Security, Travel & Transportation, Utilities.
IoT is enabling and accelerating exponential change in business processes and customer interactions. It’s also creating new markets in the process such as: Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Drones, Robotics and Wearables, among others.
It’s the vastness and applicability to every industry and market segment that makes it imperative to establish a technical baseline for all providers and customers. While the term was first coined in 1999, the market is still defining itself in these nascent stages. While we can see a day when connected devices and intelligent agents of all kinds will communicate and automate many of the transactions we perform manually in a constantly flowing stream of frictionless, digital algorithms, there’s a lot of work ahead to get there.
So how do we get started?
Think about the structure or DNA of IoT:
- Devices or “Things” that ultimately receive and send messages across the Internet of Things
- Network as in “Internet” that provides the means to convey these intelligent communications
- Applications that enable and direct the work to be done across the IoT.
As in the overall IT industry, the majority of the value will be designed and delivered at the software application layer. Consequently, this is where most of the innovations and profits lie.
The underlying hardware, network hardware and devices – whether routers, sensors, servers, transmitters or personal devices, while necessary, will continuously commoditize with similar features in an endless but all too familiar race to the bottom of the market.
The real question or missing link here is a common standard to bring incompatible technologies together. Despite some recent activity by industry groups, a universal IoT standard has not been established. The challenge is that the definition of IoT varies widely from industry to industry. Automotive manufacturing robots don’t appear to have much in common with medical devices, for example.
IoT requires extensive technology to work —from wireless communications, to data security, to intercommunications with other devices. It’s challenging to apply a single standard to a device much less the integration of the entire IoT.
There are a number of technologies to potentially standardize on – everything from WiFi to Zigbee to LPWAN to Cellular.
But I will make the case for one that I think provides the most practical approach with the lowest barriers and fastest time to market: Long –term Evolution (LTE). Although LTE is the most prevalent wireless network option in the US today, providers are in the process of building out specific bands within LTE, to better service IoT devices. That means that new IoT devices can be on boarded to an LTE network, as quickly as they are developed and the new network would provide the device with less battery drain, by right sizing the bandwidth to what is more commonly needed for IoT, versus a data hungry smart phone for example. Current IoT network deployments include CAT1 and soon to be launched, CAT M1. Future developments in this space means that devices will keep becoming more economical to deploy and the traditional barriers of device certification will be less of a constraint to developers.
How can you apply this learning to your business environment?
A good homework assignment is to see where IoT can automate an existing process in your business cycle. Look at everything from inventory management, to how you handle re-orders. Can IoT introduce efficiency into that process with more real-time access to data? Not sure? Feel free to reach out to me with questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next time, we’ll talk about another hot topic: Telehealth.
*Source: Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2014