The Internet of Things (IoT) is accelerating the digital world at a pace the industry has never seen. Businesses are faced with the ever increasing number of smart things interacting with their line of business (LOB) operations in a manner that was never fully realized. This trend of needing contextual insights from intelligent IoT information has become an imperative for organizations in all industries. This phenomenon continues to expand at hyper-scale and can also reveal new services or business opportunities, if adopted at the right time. Though this new, connected universe is still in its infancy and evolving daily, organizations can potentially face as many challenges from jumping in too quickly as they would from moving too slowly. They need to crawl before they can walk or run—and set the right foundation for success.
When it comes to the possibilities of IoT, there have been many technological evolutions from which we can learn. Beyond the laws of luminaries such as Moore, Metcalfe, and Bezos, we are seeing a causal relationship between tetration and attestation. To put it another way, the rate at which data is interacting with each other needs to be coupled with the need to guarantee that this layer two thing is truly this thing in context. As things become more homogenous in compute capability, the need for contextual control that is agnostic to location will become the dominant paradigm.
Let’s take a look at a common path that many organizations are following with IoT, to illustrate the breadth of outcomes that have come to fruition and the massive potential yet to be realized through IoT innovation.
Crawl: Data goes from one thing to one app.
Businesses first start lighting up dark assets by making things smart and connecting them to the Internet. This may be driven by a “thing maker” who provides an Internet connected thing, or by a customer who physically adds sensors that connect through a gateway to a companion app. The app often becomes the only way the customer can see the status of that thing. You may be familiar with what happens when you have to have a dedicated app for every IoT device you own; just consider how many separate mobile apps you have for wearables and smart home appliances that you personally own.
Walk: Data can be exchanged from many things to many apps.
This is the stage where customers want to do more with their data. As customers adopt more smart things from different vendors, they want to combine or repurpose data across devices and have open access to choose which apps use the data. For example, enabling data from a smart HVAC device to trigger smart window shades to open or close based on temperature conditions and to share that same local HVAC information with the local utility company to automate energy efficiency measures during peak hours. Another example is location sharing on a mobile phone where permission to access your location is a function of the phone’s operating system and accessible to any app in the ecosystem. This is enabled today by openly sharing application programming interfaces (APIs). To enable the transition from crawl to walk, a common, secure, neutral, and universal platform is needed to transport data between things and apps. Platforms must be truly agnostic to the data transmitted, things used, or apps running.
Run: Many things to many apps, many times a second.
Once data streams are truly owned by the customer, they can control what data is transmitted across apps and things to make real time decisions and calculations. This phase combines cloud and big data analytics with local streaming analytics for just-in-time automation. Extra hops to the cloud or across vendors (which could cause delays in data transmission) are eliminated when decisions must be made in milliseconds. A good example of this is with self-driving cars that have to make instant decisions about the surrounding environment like traffic signals or conditions, other cars, obstacles, or people, in order to react in real time.
But we’ve only touched the surface, and the impact of how IoT extends far beyond the examples I’ve shared here. Industries like manufacturing and energy are leveraging IoT to connect and innovate industrial processes in billion dollar factories; and retailers are using it to connect and deliver better experiences for customers. And like previous technology game-changers, IoT will transform over time and look completely different in adolescence and full maturity. The promise and potential for IoT is out there—and the race is on for organizations to get onboard with IoT and devise smarter and more innovative ways to inspire new business models. The right application platform, that is secure, offers open APIs and application development environments, and lays the foundation for tomorrow’s IoT opportunities is needed before we can even start walking.