Everyone keeps talking about the internet of things (IoT) as being the next industrial revolution, and how it’s going to drive innovation and growth. In terms of connected devices, it’s nothing new, as machine-to-machine communications has bene around for years. But now it’s not just the realm of some geeks in the telecoms industry any more, with discussions on its impact on education, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, farming, agriculture, factories, industry, enterprises and many organizations. In fact, a recent article in the Huffington Post states, “We are on the cusp of the next technology driven revolutionary change.”
It adds, “Whilst the IoT is currently thought of as a way to connect, monitor, optimize and automate everyday devices, it is not difficult to see how it will be developed to expand our experience of both physical and, along with AR (augmented reality), digital artefacts and influence the way we interact with the world around us and the products within it.”
There are regular market forecasts on the potential of various aspects of IoT, such as a research report released in August 2016 talking about the global ‘third party IoT platform’ market, which it says increased 36 percent to €610 million in 2015. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.8 percent, revenues are forecasted to reach € 3.05 billion in 2021.
This is based on a wide range of software platforms available that are intended to reduce cost and development time for IoT solutions, by offering standardized components that can be shared across many industry verticals to integrate devices, networks and applications. Most IoT platforms available on the market today can be categorized as being a connectivity management platform, a device management platform or an application enablement platform, although there are many products that offer overlapping functionality or other unique features.
The author of the research, André Malm, senior analyst with Berg Insight, says, “IoT puts more emphasis on integration of sensors, devices and information systems across industry verticals and organizations to transform operations and enable new business models. IoT furthermore aims to facilitate a better understanding of complex systems through analytics based on data from diverse sources to assist decision making, improve products and enable entirely new services.”
Many enterprises and organizations have already been involved in various machine-to-machine (M2M) deployments that have typically been characterized by customized solutions deployed within single industry verticals, or by one company, to improve existing business operations.
Whereas connectivity and device management platforms have already reached comparatively high adoption, the market for application enablement platforms (AEPs) is in an earlier phase. AEPs typically provide functionality such as data collection, data storage and analytics. Fully featured platforms also provide tools, frameworks and APIs (application programming interfaces) for creating business applications featuring data management, event processing, automated tasks and data visualisation.
Many platforms also provide tools and ready-made libraries and UI (user interface) frameworks that facilitate modelling and creation of interactive applications, workspaces and dashboards with little or no need for coding. “The AEP segment is seeing considerable activity in terms of acquisitions and new market entrants”, said André Malm. After PTC acquired ThingWorx and Axeda, other major software and IT companies have followed; examples include Amazon acquiring 2lemetry, Autodesk acquiring SeeControl and Microsoft acquiring Solair. Other leading IT companies that are extending their service offerings to include IoT platforms – often focusing on analytics and machine learning – include IBM, SAP and Oracle.
Industrial internet of things presents opportunity for huge economic growth
The industrial internet (IIoT) currently presents the biggest vector for economic growth in the next decade, according to Roger Bou, event director for the forthcoming IoT Solutions World Congress taking place in Barcelona next month. He says its benefits for different industries include greater efficiency, optimization of resources and improved safety for workers in production plants, amongst many other things.
The IIoT will provide the opportunity for a large number of companies to reinvent themselves, as well as boosting the development and growth of the economy. Many analysts strongly believe that it will have a positive effect on industrial sectors which represent two-thirds of global production.
Bou adds that cities have been one of the main application areas for these technologies for almost a decade. The IoT has become a ubiquitous layer of the urban framework which enables us to measure the sensors of almost every element in a city and monitor in real time what is going on, anticipating all kinds of events in order to manage them in the best possible way, from traffic jams through to when the rubbish in a particular container needs to be picked up, or where to find an empty parking space.
The rise of the CIO in IoT
In the proliferation of IoT, it’s also expected that the role of chief information officer (CIO) is going to become much more substantial at a corporate level. The CIO not only needs to be aware of the potential of the IoT but must also be capable of anticipating the benefits that these technologies could represent for his/her city or company.
The role will also entail guaranteeing that all these technologies and services benefit from the security measures that are so essential when working with such sensitive data and information. What verticals are developing most rapidly in IoT terms?
Roger Bou says, “At the moment, the four verticals that are incorporating IoT technologies the fastest are, in my opinion, the manufacturing sector, through robotics; transport and mobility, given that we are already seeing comprehensive traffic management systems, smart cars and innovative fleet management systems; health and wellbeing, which have evidently benefited from the possibilities of remote sensing and monitoring of patients to improve treatments and the wellbeing of the general population. The fourth vertical to benefit is consumer electronics, with the advent of smartphones, smartwatches, smart televisions and even smart fridges, which know when you’ve run out of milk and can even buy it online for you.”
He adds, “One of the big challenges that the IoT poses to any industry is security. Are things advancing at the same speed in this respect? Of course. Security is a crucial element in any system based on IoT technologies. As and when technologies advance and new services and products emerge, security will advance alongside them. A clear example of this can be seen in the field of health and the applications that the IoT has developed in this sphere. The data generated, transmitted and managed are perhaps the most sensitive of all and call for greater confidentiality, and whenever a new service or platform is implemented it entails the necessary security to guarantee the integrity of the process and its operation. Indeed, the importance that the IoT gives to security is mirrored in the programme of conferences of the IoTSWC, which address it as a cross-cutting topic that is key to all these verticals.”
[Image depicting smart farming courtesy of Ofcom.]