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The Enterprise Mobility Minute #7: The Next Big Thing, the Internet of Things (IoT): The Drivers and the life transforming opportunities

Before joining the world of mobile technologies in late 90s, I was doing research in the field of biologically inspired mobile robots. One of the most interesting  areas of research was creating mobile robots that could intelligently collaborate based on data they gathered and processed. At that time, we faced major obstacles including processing power, sensor capabilities, smart software algorithms, and communication networks.
But now, it’s a different world. Advances  in these areas and in related technologies, such as real-time tracking and telematics have made machine-to-machine (M2M) collaboration possible and it’s what is driving the much talked about “Internet of things” (IoT).
There is a lot of confusion around the IoT as some people think it’s the same thing as M2M. It’s not. While M2M communication plays a major role, as the IoT evolves it’ll need more components to be able to fullfil the basic expected benefits. The success of the IoT will be determined by how smart the connected “things” are and what types of data we’ll be able to gather.
The resulting actions the machines and humans will be able to take will highlight the values of the IoT. The simplicity and usability of these ‘things’ will play a major role in the adoption of IoT. I’ll give you an example. My sophisticated Swiss coffee maker can be connected to the Internet but no one – not even the manufacturer – can explain a real value of doing so. On the other hand, my home security system can send messages and stream video over my smartphone. Here the value is clear. Value-driven innovation will be the major driver for IoT.
While the IoT is generally thought to be the next “big thing”, it is not yet exactly clear how all the types of data will be shared by these ‘things’ or how the data will be used and by whom. But that will undoubtedly change, and very soon, as we have already broken through some of the major barriers to IoT adoption such as Big Data technology. The ability to gather huge amounts of data, store it, and analyze it in real-time is key to unlocking the value of the IoT.
Fortunately, the IoT has a lot in common with existing technologies such as internet, mobility, distributed, SCADA and industrial automation systems which will accelerate the evolution and adoption of the IoT. And if you think you can wait and see how this all unfolds, think again. Expect the IoT to become pervasive even more quickly than mobile technologies.
So how do you harness all of this IoT innovation – and take advantage of it in your business? First you need to understand the groups driving the loT revolution – and the interests that are at stake.
  • M2M software and hardware vendors: Today, there are many companies who’re offering M2M software platforms and IoT enabled hardware including different types of equipment, sensors, and actuators. However, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. New industries and types of products will be created, and to fully take advantage of the IoT will require not only extending the capabilities of the existing M2M platforms, but eventually adopting completely new architectures and approaches for IoT software development, implementation, security, and the lifecycle management of ‘things’. 

  • Enterprise software vendors: Major vendors, like SAP, started to invest a lot of resources into IoT integration and management capabilities. In-Memory Big Data systems and analytical engines, such as SAP HANA, that can handle massive amounts of structured and unstructured data in real or near real time are opening the doors for a lot of ideas, which were impossible in the past. Many vendors are also leveraging their mobile application development platforms (MADP) and mobility management software – which can easily be modified for the IoT, especially when it comes to mobile app development and embedded data and device management in IoT enabled devices’.

  • Mobile operators: Mobile operators are no doubt banking on the IoT, and are also major drivers of its evolution. This seems evident given the resources they are investing in M2M infrastructure. However, given their expensive networks and cumbersome technologies they are also one of the major obstacles of M2M adoption. Whether the IoT will continue to use energy hungry and expensive networks or new networks will be designed to specifically connect an unprecedented number of virtually anywhere “things”, remains to be seen. What does seem obvious is that IoT should be carrier  independent, data plan-free, universal, and the cost of the network should be nearly negligible.

  • Early adopter Industries: From healthcare to retail, many industries are investing heavily in the IoT. For example, GE and Airbus are equipping their airplane engines with sensors and data aggregation technology, which allows them to gather data that will increase safety and operational efficiency. And many governments are using M2M to improve the management of resources such as water and electricity and better handle crises. What is clear is that possibilities for industries are virtually limitless and manufacturers that lag behind will be left behind.

  • Consumers: The mobile revolution was driven by consumers and arguably the IoT revolution will be as well. Early examples include pedometers connecting to your iPhone or automotive repair shops that can diagnose your car remotely. As witnessed at this year’s consumer electronics show, IoT enabled consumer products and services will continue to draw attention and rapidly inspire more innovation.

The momentum created in the consumer sector, or the Consumer Internet of Things (CIoT), centers on connected personal “things”, both B2C and C2C, and will lay the groundwork for an accelerated evolution of specialized categories of the IoT in other sectors. I predict the following three major categories of the IoT to evolve quickly over the next few years: 

  • The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT):
    The industrial Internet is the convergence of intelligent “things”, with advanced Big Data analytics and sensing technologies built-in to industrial equipment, facilities, and systems. In the IIoT, sophisticated adaptive machine learning and intelligence capabilities are impeded everywhere from the software algorithms to the infrastructure. The information gathered is then shared between machines and people, which enable smarter decisions by both. This sector will focus more on B2M2B and M2M scenarios.

  • The Government Internet of Things (GIoT)
    A number of governments are already leveraging IoT technologies in public transportation and safety.  We are also seeing increasing business cases for the IoT especially in areas such as Smart and green City initiatives. However, as governments have unique legal and cultural environments, the evolution of the IoT in this sector will need to evolve with these considerations in mind.

  • The Business Internet of Things (BIoT):
    In-memory, cloud, and mobile have created a major inflection point in enterprise computing. The convergence of these technologies, along with the IoT, is creating a completely new business environment. In contrast to the industrial IoT, which relies heavily on machines and sensors, the BIoT will rely more on sophisticated software “things”, such as cognitive computing algorithms and P2P collaboration. BIoT will also rely on surveillance and sensing mostly as a service. For example, “things” will be installed and maintained by a third party, and then the data from “things” will be aggregated and processed by another third party, before being used by the business.

While some protocols, technologies, and even things will be shared across different categories of the IoT, each will also have specialized technologies and evolve at its own pace. As I mentioned in my last post, mobility is a major ROI multiplier for many other technologies, and this will become more evident as the IoT draws on it. For example, the technology we use to manage and secure Mobile devices, especially in “BYOD” cases, can help us to manage, and secure the “things” of the IoT. Using HTTP as an application protocol rather than a transport protocol similar to Web Services/Web API using REST architecture, is another example.

Just as mobility inspired a new generation of high quality, small and smart devices and peripherals, such as cameras and GPS chips, the IoT is unleashing a magnitude of innovation. And while it’s still early, there is much work to be done, the IoT is creating limitless opportunities will put nearly every industry to the test – companies will be given a lifetime opportunity to prosper or perish.

Dr. Ahmed El Adl
Vice President, Global Mobile Solutions | SAP
Connect with me on Linkedin or on Twitter

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