Get Ready for IoT

Challenges and opportunities in the Internet of Things

By Bob Rhubart

January/February 2014

The term Internet of Things was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, cofounder of the Auto-ID Center, an RFID research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since then the Internet of Things concept—now often referred to as IoT—has evolved. In the twenty-first century, “IoT is really about intelligent devices talking to enterprise apps,” explains Harish Gaur, director of product management for Oracle Fusion Middleware. That communication between devices and the enterprise allows organizations to gather an astonishing volume and variety of data that can be of equally astonishing value in serving the needs of human beings in new and innovative ways.

But as with any innovative technological wrinkle, launching an IoT initiative involves more than flipping a switch, and there are important considerations. One such consideration is the lack of standard protocols for communication among all those devices. “Similar to earlier days on the internet, there are too many standards for device communication, messaging protocols, app development frameworks, and reference models,” says Gaur.

Mobile computing represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of the volume and velocity of data hitting enterprises. ”–Harish Gaul,
Director of Product Management, Oracle Fusion Middleware

But just as in the wild early days of the internet, the necessary standards for device communication will very likely emerge from the IT industry. “Historically the industry has always come up with some new solution for addressing the lack of standards and protocols,” says Oracle ACE Director Basheer Khan, CTO at KNEX. Khan predicts that those same forces will muster to relegate to history any issues with IoT communication standards.

Solving communication protocol issues will certainly drive the evolution of IoT, and that’s an exciting prospect. But as that barrier drops away, the sheer volume of data that will be generated when your car, your toaster, and your necktie start transmitting information back to a data center will increase on a massive scale. The idea of big data grew out of the data stream from mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets. But the data stream from IoT will require a significant recalibration of our definition of big.

“Mobile computing represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of the volume and velocity of data hitting enterprises,” says Gaur. “The number of mobile devices is intrinsically tied to the population, but there could be 10 times or 100 times more IoT devices.” Your cell phone and tablet produce one sort of data stream. But what happens when every appliance in your kitchen also starts streaming data?

“How we capture, analyze, and process the data will play a big role in the evolution of IoT,” says enterprise architect Anbu Krishnaswamy, senior director for Oracle Technology Business Group. “Event-driven architecture and big data will become prominent technologies in solving these issues.”

Another issue is sorting through that massive IoT data stream to find the good stuff. “As IoT grows to billions of devices, it will become challenging to identify the data that is really useful,” says Krishnaswamy. Business analytics tools will become increasingly important in the age of IoT.

But these challenges aren’t deterring organizations from developing effective IoT solutions. At a roundtable of IT pros during Oracle OpenWorld in September 2013, I spoke with the architects behind two such solutions. Mike Vadney, senior vice president and chief technical architect at Verizon Telematics, described that organization’s IoT initiative: a vehicle telematics system that tracks and transmits real-time vehicle and driver performance data for auto insurance companies. That system currently involves 100,000 devices generating more than 1.2 million messages each day. I also spoke with Cristian Simons, systems development and business solutions manager at Brazil-based Sascar. Among Sascar’s IoT solutions is one that helps its customers fight organized crime through a stolen-vehicle recovery system.

These companies have fully functioning and successful IoT solutions in place, and they’re not alone. The challenges of the Internet of Things are being met, and these early successes are proof that IoT represents exciting new opportunities for innovation. So what are you waiting for?

Next Steps

 IoT Challenges and Opportunities, Parts 1–3
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