Augmented reality brings the software world into the real world enabling mind bending experiences. The Internet of Things brings the everyday world into the world of software, allowing real things to interact with code to provide data and perform actions as if they were software objects. Looked at in this way, these two hotbeds of technical innovation can be thought of as mirror images of each other.
There are many definitions of the Internet of Things (or IoT), but at the simplest level, almost all mention devices which send and receive data via the internet without the necessity of human intervention.
This can be sensor based telemetry data, such as temperature or pressure measurements, or commands allowing for a level of control over the devices.
We have all heard the phrase “Nothing new under the sun” - this certainly applies to IoT. Just like most large shifts in the tech industry, IoT is built on top of existing paradigms (the buzzwords help provide context, our apologies in advance) like Machine-2-Machine, Cloud Computing, Analytics and Big Data. Because it spans so many technical areas, IoT benefits from the revolutionary changes that are going on in all of them.
Cheaper and more ubiquitous communications networks, along with more scalable addressing protocols allow for devices to communicate with one another more simply, at a fraction of the cost, and at much greater speeds than ever before. Devices and sensors have dropped significantly in price while making huge gains in capabilities. Advances driven by the maker movement have increased the ease with which you can develop solutions on these devices. At the same time, there have been gains in cloud computing allowing easy scalability to the potentially much larger data streams that these devices generate, along with advances in machine learning and data visualization allowing companies to analyze and extract meaningful insights from huge unstructured data repositories.
All of these advances taken together start to add up to a potential revolution. Accenture estimates that the IoT will lift real gross domestic product (adjusted for inflation) by 1.0 percent in 2030 over trend projections for 20 major economies studied. Numbers such as 26 billion connected devices by 2020 and $7.1 trillion dollar market by 2020 are driving a huge amount of interest.
If your job involves planning or implementing technical solutions, you may be wondering:
1. Are there business problems in my company or organization which might be solved with IoT?
2. What types of IoT projects would show quick and clear ROI (return on investment)?
3. What are the risks?
4. How do I ensure IoT solutions are secure?
5. How do I ensure these solutions can be operated and managed?
6. What are the organizational or process changes I need to make to support this?
In this 3 part series, we will discuss all of these questions and more.
To start, let’s take a look at the first two questions, which are more business value focused. Figuring out possible solutions for your business will be specific to your Company, Customers and Competition (the 3Cs). However, there are some common value levers to consider. The old crawl, walk, run model applies.
Example questions around productivity and risk mitigation could be:
1. Is there something in your business environment which you have to manually check, repair and or verify (productivity / efficiency increase)?
2. Does your business require your employees to be in dangerous areas to validate anything (mitigating risk)?
A real-world example of productivity and risk mitigation is Tesla when they received a recall notice - in a CNBC interview, Mr. Musk (CEO of Tesla) said it’s more appropriate to call the software update a “remedy” as opposed to a recall. Tesla received a recall notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alerting them that a charger plug needed to be fixed because it had been discovered to be a cause for fires; Tesla completed the fix for its 29,222 vehicle owners via a software update.
Think about franchisees who are economically dis-incentivized from following quality rules, and you need a relatively tamper resistant way to check compliance without sending out QA inspectors. What about inspecting a cell tower via a drone and high definition camera to avoid potential harm? You could also apply that thinking to the claims adjuster getting on a ladder for the insurance claim for a roof damage.
A must read from a strategic thinking perspective is the Porter and Heppelmann HBR article on IoT.
If your company already has sensors in place, monitoring devices and sending data back to your data center for analysis, you might ask, what are the benefits of moving to a cloud environment (see Rockwell Automation). Having access to a world-wide cloud solution could open up new markets for your product. It could allow for streamlining of your operations. Perhaps you do a good job of getting data which shows you where things are now (descriptive), but would like to move to seeing where things will be (predictive). You can use the Azure Data Platform to move in that direction. Maybe you want to increase the speed with which you can make decisions based on your data. New streaming analysis capabilities in Azure allow you to do this as well, with the addition of Stream Analytics and HDInsight (Hadoop) Storm.
If you are interested in exploring IoT potential in more depth, please contact your Application Development Consultant or contact Premier Support for Developers. Be sure and stay tuned for our next 2 installments:
· Part 2: Security and the Internet of Things
· Part 3: Supportability and the Internet of Things
 Gartner – see http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2636073
 IDC – see http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=243661