• 01/23/2014
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How To Get Ready For The Internet Of Things

IoT technologies solve business problems and generate new revenue, but implementing them is a complex task. Here are three ways to approach IoT.

Companies that already have a stake in the IoT will need to address a series of questions. What are my top operating expenses and my customers' top operating expenses? What is the best way to connect new applications, systems, and devices to complex and often fragile networks? How can information be exchanged among siloed institutions, systems, and applications for better decision making? How can the operational efficiencies of IoT-enabled systems be scaled to create higher profit potential?

The answers to these questions will provide a clearer picture of the information needed to increase productivity and profits.

Business maintenance vs. business transformation
We see a lot of interested customers asking about what they can do with the business they have right now. For example, how do they take advantage of streamlining logistics and predictive maintenance on the assets they already have in place?

But it's also critical for companies to consider the other side of the coin: the new services made possible by the IoT, or what we call business transformation. IoT technology is flexible enough that, once you can collect data and know how to use analytics that help turn data into value, you'll open yourself up to new business opportunities. Using the manufacturing industry as an example, the IoT will address the following scenario.

A manufacturer equips all its forklifts with sensors and connects them to the IoT via a wireless gateway. The manufacturer can now get a productivity boost by updating the forklift's software remotely, rather than taking the forklift to a repair shop and losing time and productivity. The manufacturer can also use forklifts more efficiently by tracking their location and use (how much is being lifted and how often) to design products better and offer customers a mix of products based on their needs -- such as a few small forklifts versus one big and expensive forklift.

And the company can open up revenue streams and business models by selling lift capacity, rather than selling forklifts outright. In this case, the manufacturer acts as a service provider and lends the customer a forklift. The customer pays for the amount of lifting done -- by the ton per month, for instance -- or maybe subscribes for a certain capacity per month, whether it is used or not (similar to a cellphone plan).

Look to intelligent gateways
In the private and public sector, organizations looking to use IoT technologies face two potential scenarios: connecting their assets or building a new generation of Internet-connected devices. For most organizations, it's much cheaper to find ways to connect assets than to deploy new devices.

Software and hardware can be modified to connect to the Internet, but this approach is expensive and not very realistic. Many devices, such as sensors, do not have enough memory to hold modified firmware or enough compute power to support the needed communication stacks. And even with devices that have enough capability, it may be too costly to modify software and hardware, or security and regulatory concerns may not allow it.

The best option is to build a bridge between these devices and the Internet with what is referred to as a gateway or a hub. A gateway can connect to unmodified devices, read their data using current protocols or interfaces such as USB port or serial cable, and forward that data to the Internet using modern technologies such as 3G cellular or WiFi.

Even for the new Internet-connected devices, connecting via gateways will be the most practical way to achieve scalability and keep costs down.

Ido Sarig is vice president and general manager of the IoT Solutions Group at Wind River, where he is responsible for driving the company's Internet of Things product strategy. He has been leading product and marketing organizations in high-technology companies for more than 20 years.

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Cloud computing and IoT

IoT will require cloud computing to come out of the data center.  Currently OpenStack is the best bet for this but has stability issues (even in Havana) that are documented elsewhere on the web.   In order to solve some of these issues it might make sense to wrap the VM's created by openstack inside other VM's that way when there is a stability issue (almost any non-data center install will have these from time to time) it is possible to quickly recover a relatively recent version of it.  There are some research projects like PetiteCloud (  The main key that most of these projects seem to be using is use a more stable host OS and then put a OpenStack install (single or multinode) on one or more of the VM's.   We have experienced a large increase in uptime in our lab using this method.   Be aware though all the projects are extremely new and untried outside a very small circle of users.

Disclaimer: I am the lead developer for PetiteCloud

Re: Cloud computing and IoT

IoT is definitely going forward, despite the recent attacks from smart gadget and appliances featured in the Proofpoint report. I see that MIT is planning an Internet of Things Conference  this year, October 6-8. 

Re: Cloud computing and IoT

IoT is definitely going forward, despite the recent attacks from smart gadget and appliances featured in the Proofpoint report. I see that MIT is planning an Internet of Things Conference  this year, October 6-8. 


This column paints these "transformation" efforts in the best light, of unlocking revenue streams, but those efforts can be painful as well. It's easy to tackle the IoT opportunities that make your existing business more profitable, like improving operating efficiency. It's harder to attack the ones that threaten to displace products or cut into profits -- say, offering a remote utliization analysis tool that tells your customer that they can be more efficient, and thus buy less of your product. Those threats mean disrupting your own business before someone else does.

Re: Threats

I have never quite understood how the openning of an oppurtonity for someone else to make a profit harms my business.   IoT seems like all other emerging techinilogies in that it will take at least several years to mature enough to be usable and by that point most people will have a plan for their organizations for it that is unlikely to involve much displacement unless said displacement is already planned for due to other reasons.

Re: Threats

Re: Threats

Chris - your last sentence nails it - if you don't disrupt you existing processes when new technology makes it possible, someon else will. Sure, this might mean cannibalizing current business, which makes it harder to do, but the best leaders recognize that this will eventually happen one way or another, and position themsleves to be the ones profiting from the new situation. "If you don't cannibalize yourself someone else will" is one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes .
Rules and ethics

Technology is moving ahead of the regulators and ethicists. Security is another big concern. Vendors and regulators need to lay down some broad guidelines so that this $ 1 Trillion industry does not become one with devices unable to communicate; or able to harm others. I do not see enough serious conversations and the number of IoT devices is exploding everyday. Check this:

Re : How To Get Ready For The Internet Of Things

@ Ido Sarig, very well said! If our bread is destined to be eaten, why not eat that ourselves. There is no point in waiting for someone to steal rather snatch that piece of bread from us. New technology will ultimately replace the old one. It's better to equip ourselves to make the most out of the opportunity instead of hoping in vain that nothing will change.

Re : How To Get Ready For The Internet Of Things

It is certainly the first and the most important step to recognize the problems to be solved. Without recognizing the problem there can be little hope if any to have a solution. It is always helpful to think in terms of transformation according to new circumstances. Many companies have done it successfully in the past. IoT will bring as much opportunities for successful transformation as the perceived threats.