Internet of Things -Revolution or Evolution

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the technology terms that will appear in every organisation’s strategy document  (see Simon Wardley view on this  http://blog.gardeviance.org/2014/07/a-quick-route-to-building-strategy.html)

However, is it that revolutionary or simply a fancier badge on something that’s been happening for some time?

One quote for example:

It’s safe to say that we are at the start of another industrial revolution. The rise of the connected objects known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT) will rival past technological marvels, such as the printing press, the steam engine, and electricity. From the developed world to the developing world, every corner of the planet will experience profound economic resurgence. Even more remarkable is the speed with which this change will happen. A decade ago there were about 500 million devices connected to the Internet. Today, there are 10 to 20 billion. In five years, there could be 40 to 50 billion.

Dr. Shawn DuBravac

Gartner are equally dramatic:

Gartner expects the Internet of Things (IoT) to be the most game-changing IT initiative since cloud computing in terms of its impact on both business and enterprise IT. Driven by business desire for increased efficiency and new revenue opportunities, IoT will spur a new wave of IT systems to store and analyze the flood of data generated by thousands or millions of devices, or “things.” The unprecedented volume, velocity and variety of this data will force organizations to change their IT infrastructures — especially their data management and analytics infrastructures — and to adopt new platforms, practices and mindsets.

According to a RAND Europe study, by 2020 upper estimates of IoT’s annual global economic potential across all affected sectors range from $1.4 trillion (about €1.09 trillion) to $14.4 trillion (about €11.2 trillion) – or, roughly, the current GDP of the European Union.

Really?  Firstly, IOT is not a single “thing” – as an organisation you don’t just deploy IOT, its about changing an organisations business model

I have used Rand Europe for a “Proper” definition of IoT:

“The Internet of Things builds out from today’s internet by creating a pervasive and self-organising network of connected, identifiable and addressable physical objects enabling application development in and across key vertical sectors through the use of embedded chips, sensors, actuators and low-cost miniaturisation.”

What this definition means is that  it  doesn’t primarily rely on computers to exist. Rather, every object, even the human body, can become a part of IoT if equipped with certain electronic parts. Those parts certainly vary depending on the function the object is to perform, but they fall into two broad categories:

Firstly – its ability to capture data via sensors .    The cost of a sensor has declined significantly, (“dirt cheap”) which means organisations can afford it.  The components have become more sophisticated so for example the power source will last years (or “forever…”)

Secondly, ability to transmit the captured data via the Internet and “do something with it”. It is this latter part which is where most organisations are likely to fail…

In terms of the data, we are not short of data on the data explosion.  Therefore the use of big data and analytics on the right sized cloud platform will be fundamental to an organisation exploiting the data that has been captured

Although I said two, there is a third prime component….the security of the data -without this being correct, the rest becomes irrelevant

What next.  There would be a danger reading the above that it looks like yet another big IT Transformation project…No…According to Gartner, IoT will be entirely business driven,  and in the context ROI will be the most common question that will need answering before a single sensor gets deployed. The reason for this is that IoT is not a technology  looking for a business problem but much more acceptance that IoT directly supports every organisations two key forces – saving money  (operational efficiency) and making money (generating revenue).  . By connecting and instrumenting things, business can be more responsive to clients, react faster to issues and create new business opportunities, all of which can help make and save money.

So, organisation will want to do prototypes, pilots, innovation studies etc etc and this will then fall very quickly to the IT organisation to have a set of technology solutions in a very broad area:

This can be segmented into three broad areas:

Edge
Devices, Sensors
Gateways

Infrastructure and Platform
Cloud compute, storage and networking
Data ingest
Data analytics
Policy and Orchestration
Device and Platform management

Enterprise
Business applications
Business process
IT Services
Egress back to devices
Security – the much larger potential attack scope

Finally, what are the key challenges likey to be seen
Integration  – device to platform to enterprise
Security – the increase in vulnerabilities
Market volatility – immature solutions means rapid changes
New organisational relationships – especially between business units and the Enterprise

Conclusion

One of the key differences to IoT to other technology changes (mobile, cloud, social etc), organisations are making sure they understand it from a business perspective now and in advance of the technology.

The technology is going to change but fundamentally will challenge most existing IT departments because of the vast volumes involved and the analytics to be provided on them.

Ensuring an organisation has an IoT strategy and a suitable staffed team is very much stage 1 on the journey,  Experiments and PoCs are likely to be frustrating as the required ecosystem is not likely to be as robust and functioning as expected.  However, perseverance is key

 

 

 

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