The Internet of Things – described aptly as “the extension of the Internet to the physical world” – will reshape the way business is done across every sector and industry of the economy. It will bring previously offline businesses and processes online. It will reconfigure companies’ entire business models, their relationships with their customers, and the structures of their organizations. The “things” are just a means to an end; they are the tools that help businesses establish a direct, always-on connection between themselves and the rest of the world.
We’re entering a new era of computing technology that many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). Machine-to-machine, machine-to-infrastructure, machine-to-environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, intelligent systems – call it what you want, but it’s happening, and its potential is huge. We see the IoT as billions of smart, connected “things” (a sort of “universal global neural network” in the cloud) that will encompass every aspect of our lives, and its foundation is the intelligence that embedded processing provides. The IoT is comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures. As a result, huge volumes of data are being generated, and that data is being processed into useful actions that can “command and control” things to make our lives much easier and safer – and reduce our impact on the environment. The creativity of this new era is boundless, with amazing potential to improve our lives. What does the IoT need to become a reality? The truth is that connecting your business to the Internet of Things touches every part of your company and reshapes it for the better.
This diagram from Mario Morales of IDC illustrates my point clearly:
When you run remote diagnostics, like what Alarm.com now does with every home automation and security system on their network, you are then able to monitor the status of every device and respond instantly to reported incidents. Additional benefits of IoT adoption include:
- The ability to deliver proactive, real-time support, like GE Aviation does with its connected jet engines. The engines automatically transmit ﬂight data to maintenance crews on the ground, triggering service calls when necessary and ensuring that the right people with the right skills and the right parts are ready and waiting at the gate when the plane arrives.
- Being able to track physical assets, like John Deere does with its JDLink service. This enables farmers and construction companies to track, control and limit where and when each piece of equipment gets used.
However, due to the major effect on productivity enhancement that your company generates by fully harnessing “The Internet of Things”, there are still some certain limitations for companies that are new to this paradigm. There are a few challenges you need to overcome to build a proﬁtable business (or line of business) around connected devices. Launching a connected service is just the first step; once you have identiﬁed a business model that leverages the power of the Internet of Things for your business, you’ll have to do the following:
- Enable devices to connect to the wireless Internet
- Integrate into mobile operator networks, anywhere and everywhere in the world
- Deﬁne use cases and map out business and operational requirements for every stage of your product lifecycle
- Integrate your new Internet of Things business with your existing infrastructure
- Conﬁgure application programming interfaces (APIs) to meet your unique business needs and the requirements of each and every mobile operator you work with
- Deliver the new applications and services to the market
There are a host of new technologies available today and in development that could allow vehicles to communicate with each other as well as with a central control unit. These smart vehicles also could sense the road, traffic signs and lane marker. Furthermore, by using GPS and a communication link, they will be able to avoid incoming traffic, avoid accidents around a curve or avoid going over a distressed bridge on the verge of collapse through integration with the central control unit,.
Remote patient monitoring is another example relevant to this use case. For instance, imagine an implantable sensing node that tracks biometrics and sends a signal regarding an abnormal readout for an elderly patient. If the patient doesn’t respond by taking a medication, the node could place an emergency call to a contact from a list and call a second contact if there’s no answer. Finally, if there’s no answer yet again, a monitoring clinic can be contacted in addition to quickly providing other emergency assistance. Finally, another example of how this technology can be used is when it comes to continuous monitoring of chronic diseases to help doctors determine best treatments with minimal human intervention.
The requirements common to all of the use cases above include:
- Sensing and data collection capability (sensing nodes)
- Layers of local embedded processing capability (local embedded processing nodes)
- Wired and/or wireless communication capability (connectivity nodes)
- Software to automate tasks and enable new classes of services
- Remote network/cloud-based embedded processing capability (remote embedded processing nodes)
- Full security across the signal path
In a factory automation example (applying labels to boxes), a camera could detect information using a charge-coupled device (CCD) sensor (sensing node). The collected data can then communicated to an embedded processor/controller (embedded processing node) using wired or wireless communication technology (connectivity node). This could lead to a decision being made by the remote server (remote embedded processing node) which is communicated by a connectivity node. This will finally allow a mechanical action to take place that will correct the situation.
A context-aware automation and decision optimization example could be a smart car using its active safety radar system (sensing node) in conjunction with image processing cameras (sensing nodes) that communicate with an embedded processor (embedded processing node) in the center stack of the car to make an appropriate decision regarding danger ahead. Or, the vehicle could leverage its built-in GPS and wide-area-network (WAN) wireless communication capability (connectivity node) to pass along information to a central processing server on the network/in the cloud (remote embedded processing node). This could then make the car aware of any information that the system has just received from the sensors on a bridge (sensing node), such the fact that the bridge is being threatened by flood waters and causing it to lose its structural integrity. The car can then be guided to a different route to avoid danger.
All of these examples are meant to illustrate the potential of the IoT drastically reinvent business models and the way we live our lives. As time goes on, the addressable market will only grow, as shown in the following illustration.