The Internet of Things: Hype and Potential
After Cloud, Big Data, Social Media, and Mobile Apps, the next big wave is the Internet of Things (IoT). It will have a bigger impact on our life than any of these, as it will let us define and control our reality: our room, our city, our industry, and society, and will encompass the entire planet and beyond.
Gartner defines IoT as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”
By 2020, it is predicted that there will be around 50 billion such smart, connected devices. The world’s population then will be around 7 billion. There will be more Things on the Internet than People on the Internet, making this the Internet of Things. Each of us will own multiple devices on the IoT that will influence our life. So, the impact that the Internet has on lives today will seem trivial as compared to what is possible with the IoT.
Gartner places IoT in between the ‘Innovation Trigger’ and ‘Peak of Exaggerated Expectations’ categories in its Hype Cycle, and predicts that it will soon move to the mainstream. Currently, it is based mainly on niche implementations like wearable devices, but soon will be widespread.
Adoption Patterns in IoT
The Economist business unit and ARM surveyed various industries across the world, in various verticals to study the adoption of IoT. It shows that IoT is fast becoming a reality in most businesses.
Of the surveyed respondents, most of them at the C-level, almost 95% believed that in three years’ time, their business will be using IoT in some form or another. Currently about 75% are in the process of exploring IoT for internal processes as well as for their external products and services. 63% believed that IoT is critical for competitive advantage in the future. About 45% think that IoT can help their company become more environment-friendly.
According to the survey, manufacturing leads in the use of IoT today, followed by construction, real-estate, and healthcare.
The true value of IoT is not only in the devices, but in their connected systems. They will generate a huge amount of data, which when analyzed will lead to better efficiency and many benefits.
Significantly, many local and national governments, like the one in China, and especially the European Union are encouraging the adoption of IoT.
Building Blocks of IoT Technology
The Internet of Things is a combination of technologies and ideas.
One of the key drivers is the falling costs of basic components like RFID tags and MEMS, which has accelerated the adoption of IoT. RFID tags now cost about 10 cents, and the cost of MEMS devices like accelerometers has fallen about 80% in 5 years.Communication components like Wi-Fi routers are also becoming cheaper. Rapid development of mobile apps that can act as controllers for devices makes IoT feasible.
There are no key players or standards, but the key requirement of hardware in the IoT space is low power. Low power networking devices, sensors, and embedded OSs will drive growth. Key technologies using low power, across the spectrum of IoT hardware, are summarized here.
Services and Big Data
Existing devices, applications, and services will all be enhanced with IoT and expand to have newer innovative capabilities, leading to more revenue. The huge amount of data generated will lead to opportunities in data storage and security, and also analysis.
IoT in conjunction with Cloud computing, Big Data, and advanced Analytics will lead also to newer business models.
There are several challenges for vendors and enterprises creating applications, products, and services for the IoT.
Lack of Standards and Open Source Innovation
IoT is a combination of many things working together, with open standards still evolving. For example, in case of IoT applications that measure human movement, there is still no standard defined for what the size of one step should be. Open source is expected to drive innovation in this space, but there is not much progress so far. Some open standards and tools that developers can look at are MQ Telemetry Transport, OM2M, Node-RED, and Xively.
New Dimensions for Apps and Platforms
The future of IoT is in apps that talk to and control smart devices. App development will take a new turn, with corresponding architectural challenges. PaaS vendors will need to build in support for apps and IP-connected devices.
Privacy and Data Security
Due to the nature of IoT, personal privacy and data will need new types of security systems. For example, people cannot enter a password every time they want to access or control a device. Security systems have to be really simple, but effective.
IoT will lead to massive amounts of unstructured data of small chunks. The challenge will lie in collecting and processing what is contextually relevant and filtering out redundant data, and tackling such large amount of data with new kinds of technology.
User Experience in IoT
The IoT space is very diverse, innovative, varied, and therefore very challenging for product development. At Clarice, we are in the middle of tackling these challenges for our customers, as we create user experiences for products in the IoT space.
We have shared our design guidelines on creating an exemplary IoT user experience in part 2 of this blog.