The scope of the Internet of Things (IoT) is huge. Internet-connected devices are growing exponentially. The number of devices that the typical enterprise worker uses sometimes outnumbers the user 8:1, with the average non-enterprise consumer not far behind. Because of this paradigm, organisations are investing heavily in an effort to leverage IoT and bring new productivity tools and solutions to market.
IoT is finding application in a number of industries and sectors, with specific growth in retail, manufacturing and government. The benefits to industry, including automated, realtime processing and enhanced data management, mean that IoT has found a foothold in emerging markets, including those in Africa.
For example, by using intelligent location-based services and connected shopping carts, innovative store chains can send customers reminders when they leave items behind, and offer the customer a coupon or deal to help close the sale.
Building management companies can increase tenant satisfaction and cut maintenance costs by collecting data from connected heating and A/C systems that track utilization and proactively react and adjust based on this data.
While the Internet of Things can improve user experiences and bring new innovations for in-office workflows and consumers, it also brings new challenges. Performance, network availability, usability and security are critical points of consideration. Questions arise concerning how data collected from endpoints in the IoT is used.
For IoT applications, there may be hundreds of thousands to millions or tens of millions of heterogeneous devices with differing session establishment and flow placement needs – bandwidth and network performance are not infinite.
In markets that continue to pursue the acquisition and implementation of broadband, those – like Africa –whose economies are directly reliant upon internet penetration, the IoT represents a clear opportunity.
Peter Melerud, co-founder and CMO, Kemp Technologies, says the IoT can offer businesses in emerging markets the ability to enhance processes and improve operations
While these challenges may be more easily taken on by mega web scale providers, the typical company that wants to either deploy internal or customer-facing applications to take advantage of and enable the Internet of Things will face new architectural, data handling and network considerations.
The complexity of IoT development and the required wireless technology means that new methodologies, software and hardware have to be carefully integrated. Today’s IT infrastructures are segmented, which works counter-intuitively toward a core principle of IoT, as it is a seamless interconnection of nodes, sensors and machines that can interact real-time across boundaries. All of this results in complexity and a long road to true integration.
Moreover, many technology business leaders are equally driving their teams to investigate other technologies such as SDN and NFV and you can wind up with a confused infrastructure that breeds solutions looking for problems. The best way to be ready for the IoT and any new technology for that matter is to evaluate the actual business problems that exist and explore how these new architectures can help. For bleeding edge tech, the best way to do this is by incrementally carving out time and resources to be exploratory and introduce new things into the mainstream progressively.
The Internet of Things is still in the early stages of development at this time and much like ‘Cloud’, ‘SDN’, ‘NFV’, and an innumerable amount of previously new technology waves, there will continue to be innovation, but there will also be some confusion. Fortunately, the benefits and applications are real. New applications and ways of interacting as well as gathering and using data are being developed in this sharing-driven economy. The organizations embrace IoT will bring benefits to themselves, their employees and their customers in ways previously not possible.
For IT leaders, moving from an internal return-on-investment selling strategy to one that focuses on return-on-vision will likely work best in getting the needed backing to move their efforts forward, providing the fuel for the IoT to deliver more integrated solutions and services that will shape the future of the Internet.