It wasn’t too many years ago that the Internet of Things (IoT) was considered a pie-in-the-sky daydream, devised by starry-eyed technologists looking for the next big thing to spur development projects. Now that the tools, equipment, and infrastructures for enabling IoT have become real, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at how IoT has evolved and how future prospects are shaping up. In 2008, Time magazine listed IoT as one of the best inventions of the year and cited the formation of the IP for Smart Objects Alliance by Cisco and Sun as a defining milestone. 1In 2014, Gartner marked the IoT as at the pinnacle of the Gartner Hype Cycle for emerging technologies and predicted the plateau would be reached—where practical implementations would reach the mainstream—in 5 to 10 years. 2At the CES technology show in Las Vegas in early January 2016, the Amazon Echo was widely considered a breakaway hit as dozens of companies announced plans to integrate with it to provide home and automotive services. 3Great strides are being made in a number of industry sectors, including building automation, transportation, healthcare, and energy. According to IOT Analytics, the top four applications are: Smart Home, Wearables, Smart City, and Smart Grid.
Future Prospects for IoT
Given the current momentum across the IoT ecosystem, what can we expect to see in the near future?
Services are quickly arising around IoT so that individual devices are no longer the primary focus. Enough IoT-capable devices are on the market that a distinct shift toward connecting everything together is becoming evident. Interoperability is the keyword and in an environment where 85% of the devices are not designed for connecting to the Internet or sharing data, that challenge is on par with another sizable challenge: capturing, analyzing, and harnessing the massive volumes of data generated by IoT implementations4.
The connected car is quickly becoming commonplace and also being combined with services, such those offered as a part of as insurance telematics, which can lower your insurance rates and provide other benefits in exchange for giving insurers access to your driving behavior and data about the operation of your vehicle. Operational data can translate to useful driver benefits, such as reminders about when maintenance services are due, feedback on driving practices that can improve safety and economy, remote diagnostics, accident reconstruction, young driver coaching, and similar services.
With the help of IoT technologies, practical building automation solutions are moving beyond the province of large-scale enterprises and are now within reach of small- to mid-sized businesses. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning can now be more efficiently monitored and controlled using sensors, intelligent thermostats, actuators, and control systems connected—in many cases—through a single control portal. Energy consumption throughout a building can be analyzed and lowered through pattern recognition and trend analysis. Security management can be performed effectively through a combination of real-time remote monitoring, motion sensors, and automated alarm configuration. Many of these systems can be monitoring or controlled using smartwatches, smartphones, and tablets, as well as conventional PCs.
As more and more personal data gets captured and circulated through global networks, security issues are finally coming to the forefront. For example, do you really want the detailed health information captured by your fitness tracker openly exchanged and available to any hacker with a modicum of skill? Expect to see the emphasis on security rise to a higher level as the implications of having home data, vehicle data, and your current geolocation all accessible and linkable. IoT-capable home security monitors may help offset some of the potential exposure risks, but having this much personal information in play without requisite protections securing the information suggests serious vulnerabilities and an opportunity for exploitation.
Seeking Common Ground
As the vision of IoT coalesces and pioneering devices and services enter the market, the need for a common language, technical standards expressed in that language, and a defining architectural framework to implement the framework are essential.
In writing to the IEEE membership in an article, Defining the Internet of Things, Roberto Minerva said:
Imagine a global network that provides efficiencies, improved productivity, forecasting and future innovation in our everyday lives, as well as countless industry verticals! The idea is powerful and it underscores the need to ensure that stakeholders are talking about the same thing as they go about developing the technologies and applications that will enable it5.
To this end, IEEE has launched the IEEE Internet of Things Initiative to provide a common platform for future developments.
Intel is also helping resolve this challenge by offering the Intel® IoT Platform, an open, scalable platform that serves as a reference model for connecting devices and exchanging data securely in the cloud. And, while Intel is working with partners to develop an interoperable hardware foundation for IoT infrastructure building, the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF)—launched in February 2016—is working to consolidate industry efforts around a common IoT interoperability specification and to establish certification processes. The momentum building around IoT unification received an earlier boost from IoTivity, an open source project lead by Intel and the Linux Foundation and originally sponsored by the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). The OIC Specification 1.0 is now available under the province of OCF.
There’s plenty of work left to be done, but the convergence around IoT opportunities has brought a diverse group of industries together to build solutions and engineer the devices, software, and infrastructures that could dramatically enhance our lives.
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