2019 Trends in Internet of Things – part 3
It’s no big surprise that a field as far-reaching as IoT has a complex ecosystem. Even at a basic level, there are many pieces—both technical and non-technical—that must be tied together for a successful IoT implementation.
Hardware, including the “things” in IoT, is the first piece of the puzzle. Advances in miniaturization and the low cost of high performance silicon (as dictated by Moore’s law) have led to both sensors and compute components that can affordably be placed in practically any type of device. Inexpensive sensors can measure everything from geolocation to temperature to blood pressure and translate this information into a digital format. Computing can be done onboard in many cases, or the data can be transmitted to a central compute location. Building robust networks for this data transmission is another part of the hardware equation.
The software component begins with new platforms. The primary example of this is the new operating systems that have dominated the mobile device landscape. During the PC/Internet 1.0 era, Microsoft Windows was the dominant OS, especially in terms of front-end or consumer computing. With smartphones and tablets, iOS and Android have become major players. As consumers expand their notion of computing to include wearables, homes, and cars, different vendors are also seeking to expand their operating systems into those areas.
Aside from the operating systems, there is a firmware of sorts needed for IoT to be successful. This firmware itself is made of multiple components. As the cloud is a primary tool in facilitating IoT, the software by cloud providers to construct their offering plays an important role in the overall solution. This software is made available to other parties through APIs, which will be dependent on both the cloud software and the access a cloud provider is willing to grant.
Many industry observers view standards as the largest hurdle to mass adoption. This, of course, is typical whenever a new technology format or model is introduced. Betamax/VHS and HD DVD/Blu-ray are popular examples of standards battles that eventually produced a clear market leader. The IoT standards discussion will most closely resemble the development of the TCP/IP model that enabled the traditional internet to become ubiquitous. The discussion is less about a winning format and more about overall function and usability.
Services are typically not considered to be part of an ecosystem; instead, they are built at a higher layer to combine foundational pieces into a cohesive offering or to simplify the solution for an end-user. This is partly the case with IoT, but there is also an argument that services are more tightly ingrained into the basic ecosystem. While the IoT ecosystem consists of hardware, software, and rules, the true value lies in the data being generated, captured, and analyzed. This data does not hold much value on its own without services that perform the analysis and present findings or insights in a useable way. Additionally, the data has to be highly available and tightly protected.
Are businesses ready for this degree of complexity? Looking at levels of familiarity across each part of the ecosystem, it appears that there is some work to do. Very few companies claim to have the highest level of expertise in any area. In some cases, they may be selling themselves short. For example, the networking and back-end pieces of hardware needed for IoT are likely just extensions of equipment that is already in place. The hardware domain is not exclusively made up of brand new devices.
On the other hand, closing gaps across all four ecosystem domains is a large undertaking, and companies will need to think carefully before making IoT investments. Those investments should account for the impact to the business, the skills needed for IoT success, and the partners that contribute specialized expertise.