Dec 21, 2014

A stellar approach to IoT

The IoT market can seem overwhelming because of the multitude of use cases and novelty connected devices that capture the news headlines. It’s a bit like looking at the stars on a clear night; each star stands for an individual connected device.

Faced with so much choice, a natural reaction is to look for concentrations of stars or orderly clusters. This is much the same way that ancient astrologers discerned constellations, such as Orion, Hercules and Ursa Major, in the night sky. This is also the way that many companies approach the IoT market, targeting opportunities in the modern day equivalent of ‘clusters’ that characterise our everyday lives. Examples include the connected car, manufacturing supply chains and smart homes. Within any one of these areas, applications typically focus on point-solutions: in-car Internet access; or, vehicle security services; or even remote monitoring for usage based insurance

Is this the best way to assess the underlying IoT opportunity?

Consider the analogy with a constellation such as Orion, a hunter according Greek mythology. As illustrated below, a two-dimensional view of the stars that make up this constellation picks out the outline of a hunter and his bow. When it is considered in three dimensions, however, the members of this constellation are widely spread with roughly a thousand light years separating Bellatrix, the star nearest to the sun, from the more distant Alnilam. For illustrative purposes, an artificial grouping can be superimposed on groups of stars – three have been shown here. 

In an IoT services sense, these groupings are akin to different service planes. In the case of a home, for example, one service plane might apply to infotainment services, another to the management of home appliances and the third to an in-home, personal wellness service. Each of these services could be deployed in isolation, which is essentially the M2M model that many companies are adopting at present.

From an IoT perspective, however, there is value in using a common platform to manage devices in the different service planes. This value takes the form of sharing operational support costs via a single platform.

There is a second source of value in supporting data interoperability across the individual services. The personal wellness service might be improved if the service application is able to interface with the infotainment application. A personal wellness application that tracks the amount of time spent in front of a screen (TV, tablet), especially late at night, could inform the user that this is detrimental to their sleep pattern and overall health.

It will be interesting to see how companies approach this multi-plane, platform paradigm in the coming year. One development we can expect is that (enterprise) users of IoT will apply a more stringent, strategic lens in assessing the inter-operability capabilities of existing M2M platforms.

With the year-end approaching, let me take this opportunity to wish my clients and readers of this site a joyous holiday season and a prosperous 2015.

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