What is IoT

Many paths leading in

Since its origin, the Internet has connected computers across the globe. This has allowed data to flow between supercomputers, servers, workstations and personal computers, and embedded computers. Many devices with microcontrollers and system-on-chips (SoCs) have gained intelligence, and are connecting in networks.

The vision for the next evolution of technology has everything interconnected, sensing the environment, exchanging data with each other, and sharing information with people seamlessly. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to connect billions of intelligent devices and people together in exciting new applications. Some estimates, including the simplest passive RFID tags and other sensors, point to possibly as many as one trillion IoT-connected devices by 2025.

Potentially, the IoT could touch many aspects of life — from connected homes and cities, to connected cars and roads, to devices that track an individual’s behavior and use the data collected for “push” services. What shape the IoT takes depends on where the starting point is.

With consumers, mobile is the on-ramp. Devices like thermostats, fitness bands, door locks, light switches, entertainment gear, and more, connect in personal clusters linked to a smartphone or tablet.

In retail and customer service settings, beacons and digital signage provide a link between geolocation and discovery. Smartphones serve as gateways to the cloud, finding deals and facilitating payments.

When process control is needed, fieldbuses, PLCs, and SCADA connect machinery. Industrial Ethernet gateways link these clusters to the enterprise IP network and OPC provides a command and data model. For remote monitoring, tele-health and transportation, M2M technology hooks devices into a network on the move. Infrastructure built on airwaves makes set-up easy and keeps data moving as end points migrate. All these and more intelligent devices evolved separately, with differing connectivity, programming, data formats and security features. Now, the IoT seems to be asking all of them to work together – and they aren’t ready to yet.

What are the biggest Challenges to deploying IoT solutions?

Jens Wiegand, CTO of Kontron: ”Currently the market is fragmented and characterized by incompatible systems and stovepiped solutions. IoT concepts like predictive maintenance, big data, and analytics require a holistic approach, but there is a lack of cooperation between hardware and software suppliers, service providers, and communication infrastructure vendors.”

Avoiding the hype trap

One question surrounding the IoT: What is the real value? Return-on-investment (ROI) is always a concern with any substantial outlay of capital. Despite concerns, organizations are rushing to connect devices to networks and call the result the IoT. Without a plan for both implementation and incorporation into a rational business model, many IoT attempts will fall prone to the “hype” label when they fail to deliver on less-than-defined expectations.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to IoT success today is a lack of interoperability. Aligning prematurely, or exclusively, with a platform that does not integrate with the enterprise results in islands of automation. These islands loosely connect data from edge devices, but miss enabling the range of capability needed.

Few vendors are offering a wide-range of IoT solutions today, instead solving only a part of the problem. In-house developed IoT solutions, even ones leveraging open source or trying to stitch commercial products together, still run the risk of creating an island. What happens when your organization wants to share data and analysis with partners or consumers, or take in data from other IoT sources?

Most organizations cannot develop all the end-to-end expertise – multiple protocols, a variety of application development strategies, trusted device insertion and management, and real-time capability combined with enterprise scale and cloud-based services – to become effective on the IoT. In response, they compromise, choosing a subset of capability and ending up with a subset of results.