Internet of Things: The connect to the new world

by Guru Ganesan, MD, ARM India    Aug 21, 2013

Guru Ganesan Arm

The Internet of things (IoT) describes smart, sensor-enabled physical objects, and the networks, servers and services that support and interact with them. The IoT is already here and in use today. The present model started with building management systems that control the heating and lighting in our offices, but the future will see an IoT where billions of devices are connected to each other and sharing data via the internet. This will have a huge impact on how data is handled and dramatically raise the importance of energy-efficient solutions. It is the embedded microprocessors and wired or wireless networks that enable ‘things’ to autonomously sense their environment, communicate with other objects, and interact with internet-based services and cloud-based applications.

IoT capabilities can be added to just about any physical object, including clothing, jewelry, thermostats, medical devices, household appliances, home automation, industrial controls, and even light bulbs. This trend will need cost-effective sensing technology that can last for years not hours. Such sensors need to gather tiny amounts of data for extremely long periods.

The Nest Labs thermostat is an example of the kind of intelligent control that we have today. The thermostat ‘learns’ the temperature requirements of the home. It turns off the heating when it senses no one is in the house to save on fuel bills, and ‘nudges’ the homeowner to conserve energy. It can be remotely controlled using a smartphone, tablet or web browser.

Data Intelligence

“Big data” analysis, used to create big picture, strategic intelligence and capabilities, begins with the “small data” drawn from sensors and controllers. Today, most of the small data available is held in different data silos. The challenge is to share and aggregate it for big data use.

For consumers, the IoT is about personal use, convenience and health. These applications lead into what is known as the ‘the quantified self’, a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical). The future IoT will therefore be dependent on trust - generating trusted data from the device, getting information from it and its surroundings and providing services that you trust based on secure data.

Diversity in the Internet of Things

To fulfill the potential of the IoT, diversity will be essential. Multiple suppliers for each form factor will ensure competition, competition spurs innovation and differentiation, which exemplifies the fact that diversity is what the IoT is all about. The future of the IoT is that one size will not fit all.

Let me take the analogy of engines in cars to explain this. The same engine can be used in hundreds of cars. With ten engine sizes to choose from, manufacturers can build cars, bulldozers, airplanes and farm equipment. In other words, different engines, ranging from small to big, can multiply the markets that can be addressed. To continue this analogy, the same engine but with a different size and different functionality are needed for a two-door sports car compared to a people carrier, to address different customer bases.

The IoT is an enabler. It will be driven by whoever has the best ideas. It will have many facets. Like the internet, it is not one thing. The internet has Facebook, Amazon, news websites, Twitter and PirateBay. The internet does not dictate one app or one market, it enables diversity. The IoT will be about diversity too, as different markets adopt it at different rates, times and applications.