There is much variation in understanding of the Internet of Things and its related concepts — operational technology and machine-to-machine communication.The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is not fundamentally new, but several factors are converging to drive extremely high levels of deployment. Mass adoption is shifting the IoT into a powerful force for business transformation.
- The IoT is the network of dedicated physical objects (things) that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state or external environment. The IoT comprises an ecosystem that includes things, communication, applications and data analysis.
- Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication services refer to connectivity services that link IoT “things” to central or back-end systems, without human input.
- Operational technology (OT) is enterprise technology used to monitor and/or control physical devices, assets and processes.
Why Now for the IoT?
The concept of the IoT is not fundamentally new. Connected “things” have provided benefits to enterprises and consumers for years. Examples include automated teller machines (ATMs), airline check-in machines and card-operated door locks. Back-end systems have provided much value in these situations by analyzing usage patterns, enhancing maintenance support and interfacing with enterprise software. However, the IoT is evolving beyond these early examples as increasing penetration and greater numbers of use cases lead to the much greater utility.
Several diverse factors are converging to drive further value and use from the IoT:
- Business models that take advantage of the IoT are emerging — such as pay-as-you-drive insurance offerings, smart waste bins on city streets and remote healthcare services. These models are seen as proof that the IoT will solve real business problems, and they spur enterprises to explore new ways in which to use the IoT.
- The costs of connectivity and of embedded technology have fallen to a point where this is no longer a barrier to adoption. Costs are now low enough for most situations and are continuing to fall. Broadband is now well penetrated to allow much of this connectivity.
- Mobile app development platforms have matured, allowing OT devices such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to be controlled and monitored remotely from a tablet computer. APIs are being added to industrial and other OT software in order to support this change.
- The power of big data and analytics is being applied to the data originating from things. This supports decision making in a wide range of contexts and is probably the largest value component of the IoT.
- New applications are rapidly emerging that focus on the control and monitoring of physical entities. These are extremely diverse and include inventory control, remote healthcare, livestock control, home energy management, agricultural crop sensing, and many more examples.
- IoT hosting platforms are available from a growing list of suppliers. These cloud-based facilities can scale to very large numbers of users and things. They integrate and link with application and middleware while providing some degree of security. These platforms offer a quick and easy basis on which to develop IoT solutions.
- Standards and ecosystems are starting to form. These will stabilize over the next several years, facilitating rapid development of solutions across a range of industries.
- Distributed DBMS styles such as NoSQL and higher performance in-memory computing are available to support real-time analytics.
- Regulation and legislation are pushing some categories of things into the mainstream. Examples include smart meters and many automotive functions. Intelligent lighting will follow as governments encourage energy savings through light-emitting diode (LED) technology. The infrastructure required for these use cases will support further examples and will, therefore boost overall growth of the IoT.
IoT Today offers Limited Value
- Few use cases
- Fragmented solutions
- Unclear ownership of the IoT in enterprises
IoT Tomorrow will offer Transformation Value
- Mass adoption
- Tens of billions of things connected
- Multi-trillion-dollar economic value from the IoT
Future IoT will be driven by these Key Drivers
- New business models that take advantage of the IoT
- Falling costs of connectivity and technology
- Mobile app development platforms
- Analytics applied to things
- New applications
- IoT hosting platforms
- Standards and ecosystems
- Distributed and real-time architectures