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The Internet of Things: All Set For Living Up To The Hype

November 30, 2015

Alongside its annual event called The State Of Mobile, In The Pocket releases a well curated report on trends and technologies in the digital space. In this year's edition, I was happy to write an article on the state of The Internet of Things. From my point of view, over the last few months, all necessary components have transitioned into a mature state, making the Internet of Things now finally ready to live up to the hype.
  • Below you find the exact article as it was first published in the State of Mobile 2015 report by In The Pocket.

    The Internet of Things, the term used to describe the digitization of the physical world, has gathered a lot of buzz over the last couple of months. At the heart of the IoT are physical devices —from refrigerators to traffic lights— connected to the cloud, which enables them to be tracked and controlled from anywhere. Soon, anything that can be connected will be connected. By 2020, Verizon estimates the number of connected devices to rise to a stunning 5.4 billion.

    The first wave

    Today, a first batch of popular products has already adopted the IoT strategy successfully. Smart home devices like the Nest Thermostat by Google and Philips Hue provide significant value by enabling remote access and control. Both platforms recently teamed up as part of the “Works with Nest” program in a bid to link up the smart home.

    Build platforms, not products

    It is clear that part of the success of IoT relies on the interoperability between smart devices. Standardization is essential to make sure that all connected devices can interact with one another. George Yianni from Philips Hue already stated it during his keynote at last year’s State of Mobile: build platforms, not products.

    Both Apple and Google are trying to win the standardization race and announced a unified, scalable solution for IoT. Apple’s HomeKit platform enables devices to be deeply integrated in iOS devices. Exact details are still vague, but it is clear that exciting announcements are to be expected in the next few months. Google, on the other hand, has already shown its hand at this year’s I/O Conference by announcing Brillo, a minimal operating system for IoT devices. Together with Brillo comes Weave, a protocol that will let Brillo devices interact with one another. Combine this with the Nest platform and it becomes clear that Google is working on a complete solution for the IoT ecosystem.

    There’s more

    Smart home devices connected through our home Wi-Fi network are one aspect of the IoT, but there are plenty of applications to be conquered. From (self-driving) cars to billboards and worksite machinery; having them connected to the cloud will unleash a whole new set of possibilities.

    A major hurdle

    However, there is one a major obstacle that prevents us from having many connected devices today: the lack of an affordable and scalable way to get access to the cloud. Existing communication networks based on 3G or 4G are not well suited as they are expensive, impose a high energy consumption and are dependent on national telecom providers.

    Luckily, some new kids around the block are specifically targeting the IoT. Sigfox and LoRa are known to provide cheap cellular access, allowing small data packets to be sent at a small cost without consuming a lot of battery power. Worldwide coverage for both networks is growing rapidly and Belgium is set to be covered in 2016.

    A brave new world

    Having things like alarm systems, asset trackers, and traffic lights connected to the internet will mean a significant shift in the way the world around us is managed. For instance, by monitoring their operations in real-time, factories will be able to increase productivity, reduce costs and proactively maintain assets. Verticals like agriculture will change the way they operate by solely acting based on sensor data. Not to mention the new business opportunities that will emerge, mostly making products evolve into services.

    With new opportunities also come new challenges. Not only will the massive amount of data gathered by billions of devices need to be stored and processed, it will also require protection from unauthorized access and security breaches. Privacy issues may arise, making it absolutely essential to find the right balance between data sharing and data protection.

    To wrap things up

    To conclude, the Internet of Things has the potential to fundamentally shift the way we interact with our surroundings. The benefits for both businesses and consumers are huge, creating new and exciting opportunities. The past year has set the tone as fundamental building blocks were announced to empower an entire new set of smart things. These devices will not only be deeply integrated in our smartphone, they will also be connected regardless of their location and purpose. The future is great.