A rose by any other name… Part I

The Internet of Things, The Industrial Internet, The Smarter Planet, The Internet of Everything….  There will no doubt be several other names for this particular rose before it has fully bloomed.  But are these things all truly the same, and how do they relate to M2M?  Part 1 of this post will point out some of the similarities and differences about each of these increasingly used terms.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the concept of things, not people being connected to the internet. As sensor technology becomes less expensive, it has become economical to measure information in real time, relating to just about any physical object. Parameters ranging from temperature, acceleration, geographic location, stress, orientation, etc., can be measured with pin-point accuracy. This information has historically gone unknown or was kept very local to the object. Now with the miniaturization and cost reduction of sensors and processors, coupled with the ubiquity of cellular and other wireless technologies, this information may be collected by the sensor and shared in real time over the wireless internet.

The ‘thing’ (more precisely data about the thing) may now be connected to servers, databases, analytic software, a wide variety of applications, and even other ‘things’ to become part of the ever-growing  IoT.  This is more profound than it sounds at first blush.  The ability to share the complete ‘identity’ of the inert object with the internet opens the door to whole new ways of interacting with the world around us.

Want to know where there is an open parking spot downtown – easy!; need to cut garbage pick-up schedules in half by only emptying receptacles that are over 50% full – done!; alarm and security systems, monitoring remote equipment such as oil pipelines, updating digital media signage (information display screens and billboards) in real-time; the applications are endless which is in part, why there is so much excitement around the IoT.

The Industrial Internet is a term coined by General Electric.   GE has done a brilliant job of looking at how its own current and future customers will benefit from this technology. GE’s Industrial Internet contemplates a world where:

  • “Intelligent Machines connect the world’s machines, facilities, fleets and networks with advanced sensors, controls and software applications.
  • Advanced Analytics combine the power of physics based analytics, predictive algorithms, automation and deep domain expertise.
  • Connecting people at work or on the move any time to support more intelligent design, operations and maintenance and higher service quality and safety.”

These factors work together to go beyond simply creating another connected solution. Just imagine the power of being able to know with certainty which turbines require service ahead of schedule due to component wear, and dispatching maintenance personnel only when required. Avoiding even a single major outage can result in savings in the millions of dollars, not to mention the savings resulting from eliminating un-needed service visits.  GE estimates that $150 billion of waste can be eliminated annually across major industries by the Industrial Internet. And that is just the start.

IBM’s view of the world is that we are headed for a Smarter Planet.  IBM believes that companies will utilize the power of connected solutions and analytic software to turn masses of raw data and information into useful business insights.  This capability will play out in enterprises across industries, governments from the national level to local municipalities, and even shared between governments. The Smarter Planet will be characterized by enhanced services, improved efficiencies, and in general better use of scarce resources.  IBM’s Smarter Planet is keyed on giving commercial and government enterprises the ability to optimize decision-making using real data as opposed to ‘gut’ feel.

This in turn leads to a predictive or proactive approach, as opposed to today’s prevailing reactive approach.  For example, a municipality knowing exactly how traffic flows are impacted by rain can enable central computers to automatically analyze all available data and remotely change the timing on traffic lights to decrease congestion. The data analyzed might include traffic flows, intersections, weather forecasts, etc. This example shows how big data, i.e. combining structured and unstructured data from multiple sources, combines with analytic software and intelligent control software to make proactive adjustments to optimize the city’s traffic flow.

From this brief overview, it is easy to see that there are great similarities between the IoT, Industrial Internet, and Smarter Planet. In fact, the specific implementations will likely vary more based on the individual customer deployments than the supplier. In each case, remote machines are talking to centralized machines. Such machine to machine communication is often labeled M2M, which is why each of these solutions may be viewed as being based upon M2M technology.

Part 2 of this post will explain the basic architecture underlying each of these systems. Look for that in the coming weeks.

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