A Whole New ‘Internet of Things’ World

By Jens Wiegand

WiegandThe Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming not only businesses, but also our lives. The ability of intelligent devices to perceive and respond to the environment around them makes them incredibly valuable for complex decision-making in a broad range of industries. The growth potential is explosive: billions of units are generating more than $1 trillion in revenue today, and according to market analysts, the market for intelligent systems will reach nearly four billion units by 2015, representing more than $2 trillion in revenue. And many experts predict that there will be anywhere from 20 to 50 billion connected devices by 2020. In addition, the evolution of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) concepts into IoT concepts is greatly increasing and growing the market opportunity into billions of connected devices at work in a myriad of applications.

I'll start by defining some terms. M2M is a key technology for intelligent distributed systems using network resources to communicate with remote application infrastructure for the purposes of monitoring and control, either of the “machine” itself, or the surrounding environment. IoT is where the physical world merges with the digital world and enables the new experience of interacting with this environment.  IoT could be considered a more horizontal and meaningful approach where some vertical domains such as cars, smartphones, traffic control systems, as well as payment systems are pulled together to address larger business to business (B2B) needs as well as business to consumer (B2C) needs.

It's helpful to understand how this is playing out with real-world industry examples — I'll highlight a few.

In retail applications, vending machines can communicate via RFID for inventory replenishment, cutting the cost and inefficiency of restocking to schedule rather than need. The same technology also enables modern payment concepts through emerging mobile phone payment standards. Or it can provide alerts for unplanned downtime caused by power outages, vandalism or equipment failure.

As distributed energy sources such as solar and wind power approach 10% of total generated power, maintaining quality power becomes incredibly difficult without a dynamic demand mechanism to manage customer consumption in response to supply conditions at critical times, market price or demand situations. Suppliers need the ability to plan for contingencies with some margin for error given the unpredictable nature of wind and solar power. This can only be addressed by the use of intelligent devices that collect and analyze massive volumes of data. M2M monitoring and control enables the smart grid to adjust to ever-changing conditions with higher reliability, security, and performance than ever before.

In automotive and in industrial markets, through sensors, M2M communication and real-time data streaming, intelligent systems can send alerts when a key component needs repair. This capability increases efficiency by better managing inventory and decreasing stock costs. It also provides lots of predictive information to optimize additional processes and goods quality.

In healthcare, smart M2M devices, enable through IoT architectures new sophisticated services, and applications allowing healthcare professionals to understand patients’ conditions and make accurate, timely, and realistic recommendations. In some cases actions can be taken – insulin for diabetes, for example – or perhaps alert a caregiver. There are hundreds of IoT-based healthcare service opportunities in hospitals, doctors’ offices, homes, and also on mobile applications.

These examples of real-world applications in development are game changing; needless to say it’s definitely an exciting time in the industry. IoT concepts and architectures are driving significant innovations in network connectivity, mobile and wireless technologies, multi-core processing, M2M communication, sensor technologies, cloud computing, and data analytics. This has resulted in a convergence of a new form of intelligence with astonishing new capabilities to optimize the productivity of processes and efficiency of decision making.


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