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Growing pains of the Internet of Things

May 29, 2017

Tim Sherwood   

Blog contributor

The always-connected nature of today’s world has broken down barriers to innovation and communication that previously existed. We now live in an era in which technology has enabled consistent, borderless collaboration and communications.

Gartner predicts that 2017 will see 8.4 billion connected devices in use worldwide. This includes consumer products, like smart TVs, and in-car entertainment systems and industrial applications that can predict necessary maintenance in a factory or the most efficient way to distribute energy from a power plant. The ability of these applications to connect and interact with each other across the same platform offers new opportunities for enterprises to realise new, additional revenue.

But, especially from an industrial standpoint, the uptake on this new type of platform has been slow as enterprises seek out the best practices for connecting with multiple end-points, such as their customers, partners, employees and assets anywhere in the world. The movement to cloud-based mobile-first strategies, which optimise connectivity with these end-points creates additional layers of complexity.

Take the energy industry as an example. In short, too many organisations in this sector are operating an infrastructure that is analogue, aging and outdated. In many countries, this industry is in desperate need of a digital upgrade. With the current grid infrastructure in many economies already aging and in need of replacement, it’s time for utilities to switch out “dumb” assets for smart assets that can communicate digitally. It’s time to embrace data as the new currency of the energy sector.

Most importantly, the various technology options supporting the Internet of Things remain fragmented, with different standards and technology, each of which can apply to different applications, making the concept of IoT rather less plausible. Rather than internetworking, it is more like an archipelago with many islands.  In fact, Forrester says that this year design teams will search through more than 19 new wireless connectivity choices and protocols to support the company’s diverse set of IoT devices.

Let’s say, for example, you’re getting ready to go to a meeting that’s on your calendar and you’re using your phone’s GPS to drive there. Right now, the parking app doesn’t say it will take 20 minutes to drive there AND you’re going to have to park far away, so you had better leave now.” Google Maps knows the drive time, but can’t tell you the parking situation – that would be a different service.

For an industrial example, let’s go back to the energy example we discussed before. New technologies, including sensors and digital control systems, use real-time data to deliver better power plant outcomes with stable and efficient operations, while providing valuable predictive insights for higher reliability and optimisation.

The need for multiple apps will begin to change as the convergence of the technology creates synchronisation between applications. We’re seeing this as the advent of cloud-based M2M device management systems has begun to lessen the need for multiple apps and create more streamlined platforms. On top of that, mobile network operators are now willing to forgo being the main service contractor and provider, choosing instead to partner with M2M/IoT platform providers and third party system integrators in the realisation of their M2M/IoT strategies.

The growth of these connected networks will have an impact across borders and across industries. For example, the automotive industry offers an opportunity to deliver a borderless and unrestricted connected car experience, regardless of location. Transportation and logistics companies can realise new cost efficiencies in their business.

Borderless connectivity enables airline aircrews to stay connected to their company network, regardless of their location. And building connectivity into aircraft will help in diagnostics and servicing, potentially helping to identify a problem with an aircraft before it creates operational issues.

The IoT and mobile devices are creating a convergence of digital technology platforms that will eventually create a “one-stop shop” for consumers and businesses. While challenges remain, we are clearly moving towards digital platforms that enable this convergence for consumers and enterprises around the world, both in developed and emerging markets.

What new advancements would you like to see to make your life even easier and more efficient? Leave a comment below.

In the meantime, read Anthony Bartolo’s post on how borderless mobility will drive the growth of the Internet of Things.