Connections are vital, as is communication, in a very general sense. This is true in so many different real world situations and from so many different perspectives, and since its inception the internet has increased connectedness to the point where fast-paced communication is possible throughout the world. Now, it’s pretty easy for people who live in places where the internet is accessible to keep up-to-date on everything from current world events to the score of last night’s Liverpool versus Everton football match. It should come as no surprise, then, that the automation of this information and the Internet of Things (IoT for short) is a burgeoning idea that is building credibility rather than an abstract concept from the pages of science fiction. In fact, to enterprising minds, the IoT is actually a gold mine; it’s ripe for innovation and full of opportunity.
You may be familiar with the IoT, so I’ll spare you the history, offering just a cursory mention of Kevin Ashton, the technology pioneer and Brand Manager who proposed the idea in 1999 after researching RFID technologies for use in the management of Procter & Gamble’s supply chains. Over time, the term “Internet of Things” has come to represent the idea or scenario in which objects, people or even animals with unique identifiers are able to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. This is typically expected from advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services such as smart objects and WiFi, and is thought of as the realization of true automation.
Building Value – Entrepreneurs and Enterprising Minds
Is it straight out of science fiction? Maybe. You can probably imagine the IoT and a resulting world that blends Orwell’s 1984 and Cameron’s Terminator if you’re quite imaginative. However, expanding the IoT is actually a real possibility with real applications for innovative companies and individuals rather than self-aware artificial intelligences.
For an existing example, look no further than your garage or driveway. On-board computers are basically standard for all new cars, and these computers are constantly collecting data from various devices within the vehicle. What does it do with this data? Well, on-board computers have been estimating the miles you have remaining until your gas tank is empty based on the level of fuel in your tank and your average miles-per-gallon measurement for years. This is just the beginning, as other diagnostic information can be sent to your car’s manufacturer and then emailed to you in the form of a report on the “health” of your vehicle. You can find other examples of an interconnected IoT in business with automated supply chains, like the one that Kevin Ashton was researching, and just-in-time fulfillment principals. Another example is Nest’s new thermostat and smart lock technologies, which will automate things such as climate control within your home. In gas stations, fuel-control systems account for product and water levels within the tank and allow managers to optimize their operations. These are just a few examples; the possibilities are endless.
The exciting thing is that the IoT is on the bleeding edge of technological capabilities and ideas, meaning that we don’t know what kind of meaningful applications it will have. It’s up to the innovators with the means to take advantage of the opportunity that the IoT presents to determine those applications based on our needs and balanced by our capabilities. The one thing that we can say with certainty, though, is that the value of the IoT lies in making sense of the data rather than in the devices or “things”.
We have the “things”. From our cars to our toasters to us as individuals, we represent the wide scope of data-creating “things” that the IoT can be applied to. The devices that collect and submit data, on the other hand, are or will be taken care of. Consider the report released at the end of last year by Gartner, which forecasted a whopping 26 billion units installed in the IoT by 2020. That’s only six years away. The devices that are already in place have generated plenty of data, and these new devices over the next six years will generate even more. This is mostly machine-generated data, so the value will lie in turning this abundant data in to actionable knowledge. All of the money that is there to be made in the burgeoning IoT is in analytics, applications and internet-enabled services that leverage the data, creating intelligence.
Demand for Developers and Devbridge
So what does that mean for us? The key to unlocking the large amount of value for which the IoT has the potential is held by developers. The data created by the astounding amount of widgets that are expected in the next six years as well as the data from existing devices spells out a need for more highly skilled developers, to create the applications and services that will allow us to turn data in to knowledge. As far as an estimate goes, VisionMobile expects the number of IoT developers to reach 4.5 million by 2020.
On top of developers, there will also be a demand for business analysts. Collecting the correct data and organizing it so it makes sense is one thing, but achieving true insight will fall on the backs of skilled business analysts. Analytics have advanced, and analysts with experience in this advancement and the ability to create valuable intelligence from large amounts of data will be best suited to tackle the task of making sense of the IoT.
Since we have experience developing software and applications that are flexible, scalable, powerful and customizable for platforms such as mobile and smart devices, along with our expertise in cloud-deployed solutions, we hope to be ready for the IoT. We have plenty of experience with Big Data and NoSQL databases, which will be essential for dealing with the data that the IoT creates. A few forward-looking projects we’ve embraced include leveraging data feeds from robots in the manufacturing industry, to both visualize machine performance and help better plan and optimize the manufacturing process. In addition, we’re working on intelligent transmitters in trucks that will allow for the collection of data on fuel consumption, traffic, and other data to help decision-making in the logistics industry.
Furthermore, we are currently experiencing rapid growth as a company, at what seems like the perfect time in terms of the IoT. By fulfilling our first-hand need for more highly skilled developers, we hope to help turn the IoT into a highly valuable market through connectivity, cloud services and our entrepreneurial attitude.
The Internet of Things brings the question: what does the future hold? My phone already talks to my television, but what if my coffee pot could talk to my alarm clock? What if parking meters could talk to my car? The prospect of easily finding parking in a crowded metropolitan area is just one of many potential applications for solutions within the Internet of Things, as long as data can be turned in to intelligence. It’s truly up to people like us – innovators – with the skill and know-how to create applications that can make sense of the nebulous mass of data that now exists in the IoT.