• 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.

When we talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), we usually talk market size, because it's enormous -- billions of units are generating more than $1 trillion in revenue today. And analysts forecast that revenue will double by 2015.

Those are exciting numbers, but what benefit does the IoT deliver? For businesses, it is twofold. First, it unlocks the value of assets, such as medical devices or industrial printers, to generate new services and revenue streams. Second, it helps turn data into information for better decision making.

[Sensor-equipped objects and their networks will reshape your life. Read CES 2014: Cisco's Internet of Everything Vision.]

However, you must overcome looming challenges before the IoT can be fully realized. A lack of unified standards is preventing widespread adoption, and scaling is difficult, because vertical industry applications like medical devices and industrial controls have little or no overlap.

Complexity is also an issue. The technologies involved in creating intelligent connected systems are broad, and it can be difficult to know where to start or what technology is best for specific needs. Most IoT products do not provide a seamless experience between the business backbone and the embedded device or system out of the gate. Some complex customization is required. For example, a legacy device that is not connected to the Internet may use proprietary protocols to communicate with an internal network over a wired connection. The company would need to customize the IoT setup to support that proprietary protocol and provide wireless connectivity to the Internet.

Businesses are also coming to terms with the fact that, to create an end-to-end IoT experience, they typically need assistance from partners that may not be a part of their current ecosystem.

With all that in mind, where do you even begin? Here are three tips for approaching and implementing the IoT.

Get to the heart of the business problem
Different companies and industries have different perspectives on the opportunities created by the IoT, but all are looking to scale efficiently, increase average revenue per device, and set themselves apart from the competition while responding to the needs of the business. So where does your company fit in, and what's the first step?

Smart manufacturingSmart forklifts use Internet-connected sensors to collect usage and location data.

If you're starting from scratch, it's important to ask, "What's the No. 1 business problem you want to solve?" Once that's answered, it's time to look at the systems you need to connect and the capabilities you must put in place.

The IoT is shaking up traditional business models, but the technology itself is just the enabler. It's the new business models that will be transformational. For example, the Internet is now reaching beyond IT departments and traditional Internet-enabled devices. Though technology is spurring these new connections, business models across industries will also change as they adjust to the new realities of what can be delivered in everything from city-wide transit systems to smart homes. The business models themselves are changing, and IoT products will help with that shift.


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.