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Internet of things, will it disrupt our life?

on ‎02-14-2014 05:39 PM

internet-of-things1.jpgThe drumbeat is starting. Even on TV you see advertising about the internet of things. New acronyms are created on the fly. We better get familiar with IoT, M2M and a number of others. Zettabytes of data are created according to the specialists. OK, all of this is fine, but what is the end-to-end story behind this.


But what is the internet of things. Many definitions exist and many of them seem to address different elements or aspects. So let me try giving my own definition. The internet of things is the use of internet enabled sensors and actuators to identify events, patterns, behaviors and act upon them. The internet of things changes perspectives from two points of view, first it massively increases the amount of data that is captured and needs to be analyzed and digested, and secondly it caters for automatic decision making and action taking.


The cheer size of the data and the need to analyze it at unpredictable moments makes IoT very dependent on the use of cloud technologies to provide the storage space and the server capacity to perform the analysis required when needed.


Many questions are raising when we look at the progression of the internet of things. Different market research claim IoT will be billions, trillions of US$ by the year 2020. Shure but what are key elements to think about.


IoT creates new business models

The first element to realize is that the internet of things creates new business models. Data now becomes a sellable commodity. But like in current market research you will have primary and secondary analysis. Some companies will take the raw data, analyze it and create aggregated data, which in turn can be exploited by others. So, from a business model perspective, the actual data can be monetized, so can also be the analysis and its results.


Some will analyze data using extremely sophisticated, and proprietary, mechanisms. They become high value service providers and will sell the information or the conclusion they generated during their analysis.


Yet others will be brokers. They will have multiple data sources, primary and secondary, and will provide their customers with a series of feeds they can exploit.


I could also imagine environments where enterprises have the opportunity to share data and to trade it amongst themselves. Each company may bring one series of data elements. The community gets richer output by analyzing the combined information. Or an enterprise may decide to share one data feed with somebody else if they provide them in return with access to one of their data feeds.


So, data now becomes a sellable good, and the same type of market dynamics will play as for physical goods.


Building data standards

But to reach these capabilities standards will have to be developed. Two types of standards are required, first data access standards and second data content standards. Let me start with the first one, data access. I need to be able to access data provided by multiple sources, and I want to do this in a transparent manner. Hadoop is used by an ever increasing amount of companies, so it is safe to believe it will become the de-facto standard. But what is more important is to gain understanding of what the data actually means. We will have to figure out a way to explain, in such a way that computer programs can understand it, what the primary or secondary data actually means and how it has been obtained.

Should we attach an XML descriptor to a data source? Or are there other, more clever ways to do it. I don’t know, but in one way or another we will have to define a standard so we can take full advantage of exploiting the data. Otherwise we may end-up comparing apples and oranges.


Get the user comfortable

As already stated we are at the start of the internet of things. Actually, a very interesting area that is currently booming is the fitness trackers. You know, these wrist bands that track your movements, the calories you consume, the way you sleep etc. And daily that information is uploaded to the cloud using USB or a variety of wireless technologies. The companies developing these products thrive on the willingness of users to be fit, to limit excess calorie intake and to take care of their health. And the cloud based analysis software try to address their requirements.


But at the same time your data is collected, you actually give a lot of information away about how you live, and in some situations, what you eat, and what type of exercise you perform. This information becomes very valuable to the manufacturing company as it can now monetize this. It can send food companies details of your eating patterns so they can address you with streamlined marketing messages, increase their share of your business.  Exercise data can be sent to companies selling exercise equipment and apparel. And I can go on like that.


The first question obviously is whether this is considered private information? Is it subject to local legislations and are the manufacturing companies compliant?


But probably the more important question is following. As user of these fitness trackers, are realizing that you give away all this information and are you OK that your data is exploited by manufacturing companies to make money? The question is not new. It has come up with social media. But in social media you take a specific action by sharing a photo, a thought or a status. You are willing to share an information. In this case it is more subdued. What you are interested in is your fitness. That is what you believe you receive. The rest remains hidden, and in a first instance you may not correlate the sudden receipt of marketing messages with your wristband. This is really something that will need to be thought through and we may have to put some boundaries on what can be done with personal data.


Data overload and instant response

The last point I want to highlight will push us to the limits of our creativity. Indeed, as more and more sensors are deployed, an ever increasing amount of data is becoming available. Well, first that data will have to be transported to environments where it can be analyzed. This implies ever larger internet pipes. There is a practical issue, are we capable of growing the internet throughput fast enough to swallow all the data that is being generated. Let’s assume we can.


The second step is now the analysis of this data. The pool of data to be analyzed is increasing drastically. I had a business intelligence demo earlier today and the analysis of a large pool of data typically takes quite some time. Well, in the instant world we live in, we expect everything now. So, how can we speed-up the analysis process so we can deliver what is required when it is needed? I believe here is the place where we will be moving away from standard server technology to dedicated systems, focused on specific analysis engines that process data extremely quickly. This is where servers such as HP Moonshot play a role.



Saugatuck, the industry analysts, ask themselves five questions about the internet of things. They complement well the discussion I just had. There are many open questions still around the internet of things, but as it is slowly but surely creeping into our lives, we better get used to think through what it means. Will it make our life better and easier? I would have a tendency to believe it, but the jury is still out on that one. What do you think?

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on ‎02-18-2014 10:10 AM

Christian, I'm eager to see more practical use cases for what's been called the Industrial Internet apps.


The convergence of Cloud, IoT and M2M will likely have a more meaningful impact within this realm. Perhaps open standards adoption for sensor vendors will be the key catalyst that helps to move more of these industrial use cases from the early conceptual stage of market development.


What's your take on that issue?

on ‎02-18-2014 10:33 AM

David, I've been discussing practical cases with several customers. particularly related to enterprises sensor enabling equipment to facilitate maintenance, understand usage of the equipment better etc. I've also discussed security related use cases. We've done projects in the sysmic exploration space and I could give you some more. There starts to be quite some activities in the space. It is still early days, but things are progressing quickly.

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