Internet of Things – A Thing of the Future?

Gunjan Trivedi May 22, 2013
Internet of Things – A Thing of the Future?
The Internet of Things seems inevitable in the near future. Should you be interested? Yes. Should you be concerned? Maybe. Should you be obsessed with the idea? Not yet.

What role can a Coke vending machine play in defining how technology will be consumed going forward? Or determine the Internet of the future?

Significant, if you now ask the bunch of programmers from Carnegie Mellon University, who in the 1980s, stoked a pretty creative use of technology. These programmers connected their vending machine to the Internet and wrote a piece of server program that checked its status, tracked how long it has been empty, and determined whether they’d get a drink cold enough when they’d make a trip down to the machine.

Such was the creative consumption of technology that it took three decades to evolve into a form that perhaps they themselves wouldn’t have imagined. And now, it’s right on the cusp of a new timeline where, in no time, it can morph into the next big thing in IT. Experts call this phenomenon the Internet of Things (IoT).

By definition, this term explains the phenomenal development the Internet has begun to experience. All this while, the Internet had been relegated to the Web we have largely known. But as the function of inter-connectivity is going beyond connecting people and including automated conversations among devices, the Internet of Things is gaining ground.

In fact, in a global study of 750 CIOs on machine to machine (M2M) by SAP and Harris Interactive released last month, Sanjay Poonen, president of SAP’s technology solutions and mobile division, termed IoT as the ultimate social media collaboration of man and machine. He considered IoT a step above M2M, which is primarily used to collect vast amount of machine data from network-connected embedded microprocessors.

Poonen believed that IoT will integrate data from machines, ERP, CRM systems, social media etcetera in real-time, allowing humans to intelligently interact with devices, devices with devices, and devices back to humans.

The chief scientist of Accenture, Kishore Swaminathan mentions in his blog that Gartner has put the IoT way up in its hype cycle and practically every major technology company is in the process of developing an IoT product. He states that a number of universities in the US, Europe, and Asia have launched big R&D programs in IoT, and the European Union is funding a massive IoT Initiative. In fact, China has identified IoT as a technology of national priority.

Quite evidently, it looks like the next big wave seems to be on its way to hit CIOs, who are still grappling with the advent of mobility devices in their systems and are just about to consider the problem of big data. If the IMS Research reads it right, by 2020, there may be as many as 22 billion embedded systems and other portable devices connected to the Internet.

A back-of-envelope calculation sums it at more than 2.5 trillion bytes of new data every single day that will be produced by these systems, perhaps coining a new term: Huge Data. So, should CIOs drop everything and prepare for the onslaught of the Internet of Things? Perhaps, not yet.

Undoubtedly, this form of technology has been in the making for at least 30 years, and has begun to gain significant steam as the other supporting technologies such as sensors, embedded microprocessors, and IPv6 are getting cheaper and more mature. 

However, how various organizations are dabbling with the Internet of Things is still quite vague. And that’s because IoT is not an off-the-shelf technology, but a concept. There are still many what-if scenarios that organizations are working on. Ironically, every what-if scenario fails if there is no consistent Internet connectivity.

Therefore, at present, technology integration and data volume may not be the problems at hand. Unless, ubiquity and longevity of wireless connections can be designed at the core and not as a bolt-on for these IoT solutions, the Internet of Things remains in the future. A very near future, for sure.

Gunjan Trivedi is executive editor at IDG Media. 

Source: CIO India