IT people love to create and use buzzwords – it helps us to immediately define and understand what we are talking about. In fact, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is all about connecting “things” together via the Internet. But, what do we mean by things, why bother and is there anything more to this particular bandwagon beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity?
The first of these questions is easy enough to answer. By “things” we mean just about everything and anything you might want to connect to the Internet; in fact we really ought to call it the “Internet of Everything.”
These things aren’t just laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but central heating controls, intruder alarms, surveillance cameras, cars, domestic fridges, washing machines, and so on. What do they have in common? They’re all things with or without any real processing capabilities of their own, but when connected to the Internet can provide easy access to information (data) otherwise only available to the thing itself.
Second, why bother? Well, if you allow information to be shared between these things (whatever and wherever they are), you open a door to huge quantities of information that can be analysed and acted upon to perform tasks that would otherwise need a lot more time and effort – whether or not they’re even practical.
Getting the fridge to place an online order when you run low on staples such as eggs, milk and pizza is an oft-quoted example. Or, in business, the ability for machines on a production line to manage the logistics of ordering supplies and delivery of finished goods themselves.
But then the ability for things other than computers to collect and share information is nothing new, and a lot of the buzz around the IoT is still focused on the connectivity side of things – the M2M communication. However, there is another aspect, and that’s what you do with the information from connected things. That data will only be useful if used in the right context, at the right time.
The combination of data at rest and data in motion is the key to extracting the most useful information from which to make decisions; that information needs to be analysed in real time to get the maximum benefit. Moreover, the cloud and open APIs have a hugely important role to play.
Not only by making it far easier to connect things together, and making sure those connections are as secure as possible, but also by offering the platform needed to store, analyse, and act in real time on the data Internet-connected things provide.
By its very nature, the IoT will be big, with expansive claims of billions of devices regularly popping up in the press. But it’s not all about size, or just M2M connectivity – it’s how you analyse the data the IoT provides and what you do with it that really matters.