The term ‘Internet of Things’ is quite ambiguous, but it has quickly become a tangible technology that is set to effect businesses across the world. In simple terms the IoT includes any technology that can be used to collect information and manage systems.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has historically excluded smart devices such as laptops, servers and mobile phones; however the emergence of embeddable micro-computers, such as the Edison from Intel, has opened up the possibility of intelligence everywhere, where all devices are smart, multipurpose and self-aware – and therefore require management.
When we founded CentraStage back in 2006 we coined the strapline “Every Device Counts”. Our thinking is that unless you have visibility and control of all of your devices – regardless of location or network – then you can’t be certain that everything is as it should be.
Gartner estimates there are currently 1.4 billion computing platforms worldwide, and yet project this to grow to 20 billion by 2020 with the advent of the IoT – a phenomenal rate of growth. The challenge of keeping that number of devices running is not a technical one – but one of scale.
Overcoming the issues of scale is the central tenant of the RMM market’s core value proposition, so we knew that in order to compete in the RMM market, we would have to provide a core feature set that matched or exceeded customer requirements, and we would also have to build those features into an elastic architecture. Something that has positioned CentraStage perfectly to manage devices in the growing ‘Internet of Things’.
In my opinion IoT platforms are the convergence of remote management and monitoring, endpoint management and big data. But to understand why management of the Internet of Things is so important, you need jump past our initial ideas of connected devices, where information is uploaded – from your fridge, your watch, your heating system – to an online portal that will allow you to manage your environment remotely.
In short in order to properly grasp the concept of the IoT we need to remove people from the picture. The real IoT will be down at the machine level, where data is exchanged between connected devices and decisions are made automatically, based on pre-determined thresholds and process logic.
These systems will rely on data in order to automate their actions; and it is this data that determines the decisions that they will make on our behalf. This data is either real-time, supplied by sensors, or based on historical data that must be stored and analysed. This is the realm of big data and the focus of many IoT services. Who owns this data, who has access to it, and how long it can be stored for will be the subject of many debates as the IoT evolves.
As it does with everyday servers, laptops, tablets, and phones, the effectiveness and performance of the Internet of Things (IoT) will come down to the reliable monitoring and management of the underlying devices and systems.
Ensuring that they are working correctly, and fixed or replaced when they are not, is going to require scalable, secure and reliable platforms to provide real-time performance monitoring of the myriad of devices that will supply, and act on the data produced by, IoT systems.
There is no doubt that the business potential of the IoT is huge. The interconnectivity of all-things digital and the conversion of analogue systems to IP-enabled equipment has long been a dream of those who built the Internet. The challenge is turning the vision and opportunities of the IoT into real business opportunities. As things stand the IoT is in its infancy. It’s a bit like the early days of cloud computing – an umbrella term that describes a future vision, but it’s not yet a product a business can sell.
What is clear is that IT support teams and service desks will become responsible for more devices, more applications and more services, and there will be much greater diversity of devices than there is today. Those devices will need to be managed and monitored. They will also need to be updated and patched. Core networking, unified communications and security will also be key opportunities for IT support teams as they will be key components of the infrastructure and systems that make up the IoT.
In conclusion there is no doubt that the IoT will transform the IT landscape and marketplace, as we attempt to automate, manage and optimise as many systems as we can as things change forever. Now that’s exciting.