Large growth possibilities exist for IoT, connecting devices to the internet in areas like home automation, smart energy, and transportation. While sales in IoT have started, navigating issues of cost, ease-of-use, and adoption of IoT applications requires careful consideration of appropriate technologies and the evolving M2M /IoT infrastructure.
Currently, many of the applications with Internet connected devices are vertical, insular information silos. The potential of IoT is contained in the sharing of data from these closed information silos. Realizing the potential of IoT is made possible by the accessibility of all data from devices combined with the new knowledge emerging in the area of “big data” to create the framework for many new types of applications.
Enabling “smart” products for IoT involves more than just the applications that manage a device’s data. It requires applications that track activation, perform licensing, manage billing and subscriptions, and protect the data. Data centres preparing for the data explosion from IoT are establishing support services that will be required to transform and take advantage of the new applications. To keep up with this constant climate of change, emerging technologies are focusing heavily on programmability and standardization while not forgetting the security concerns that are ever present.
With data availability and new applications driving the growth of IoT, choosing the appropriate technologies from the many different options becomes critical. Many technologies compete in this space including international standards, domain-specific standards and proprietary technologies.
An architecture with a gateway that serves as an interface between the wide-area network (Internet) and the short-range network is also typically required for IoT.
When choosing short-range technology for IoT, an often-required feature is support for mobile use cases where a smartphone or other mobile device can be used as a temporary gateway. The energy-saving attributes of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart make it a likely major player in data-intensive enterprise and IoT applications. Android’s support of Bluetooth Smart in late 2013 will ensure that Bluetooth Low Energy technology will be a major feature in the IoT context with 2014 to 2015 shaping up to be big as more Bluetooth Smart-enabled Android devices reach the market. Today all major mobile operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry, support BLE, a factor that will help speed the technology’s adoption.
Dedicated M2M networks may also contribute to the envisioned IoT of the future. Offering cheaper prices on dedicated data networks, new M2M-only networks operating on different business models to the traditional networks have the potential to revolutionize revenue models. For example a new startup firm, M2M Spectrum Networks (U.S), proposes charging a percentage of revenue or a percentage of the value of the application instead of charging per device per month. The actual or planned shutting down of carriers’ 2G networks has been of benefit to such companies sales pitches, with these new network proponents catering to security, tracking and vending companies interested in long-term M2M solutions that do not require migration to new mainstream networks such as LTE.
Partnerships and alliances feature in the new IoT landscape as evident at the IoT Asia event in Singapore last month. As examples Cisco Systems and Texas Instruments have announced separate efforts to expand partnerships serving the emerging Internet of Things. Texas Instruments named eight IoT cloud service partners and Cisco launched a challenge for IoT startups and promised to work with the winners.
The current IoT landscape highlights the emerging new providers of cloud services for IoT with various skill sets and offerings. Another rapidly expanding area in IoT is in design services handling technical needs of the broad variety of market sectors looking to adopt wireless sensor networks of various kinds. Helping drive the development of new designs in the emerging IoT market, component manufacturers are collaborating in ecosystems that in some cases include cloud service providers to bring IoT devices and applications to market faster.