14 Benefits and Forces That Are Driving The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) will be huge in several ways. The forces that are driving it and the benefits that are motivating it are increasingly numerous, as more and more organizations, industries, and technologists catch the IoT bug.

The number of connected devices on the IoT network will be huge. One estimate says that the number will be nearly 40 billion, which is approximately 30 devices for each and every active social network user in the world. That is actually a conservative estimate.  Another analyst predicts that “trillions of sensors” will comprise the IoT.

The quantity of data being collected and analyzed in and through the IoT will be huge. No one can predict this “ginormous data” volume reliably, but we frequently see articles that mention zettabytes, yottabytes, brontobytes, and even as high as geopbytes. For example: it is already true that sensors on a single Boeing aircraft jet engine can generate 20 terabytes of data per hour; the future astronomy optical telescope LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) will produce about 200 petabytes of data in its survey lifetime; and the future astronomy radio telescope ensemble SKA (Square Kilometer Array) will alone produce several exabytes per day as it senses the changes and behaviors of objects in the Universe. The Universe! – so, maybe we really are building the Internet of *Everything* after all. Each of these examples corresponds to one single node out of the billions (or trillions) that will be collecting and delivering data through the IoT. Those are huge “devices”, whereas most devices on the IoT will be small (e.g., your home thermostat, your car tires, your toaster oven, and everything else).

The economic impact and benefits of the IoT will be huge. Gartner predicts that the aggregated value and economic benefit of the IoT will exceed $1.9 trillion in the year 2020 alone. The analysts at McKinsey & Company (who predicted for us in 2012 the current, and worsening, shortage of data scientists to manage and work with big data) have looked at the IoT also and have identified 6 major benefits (at least) that the IoT will bring:

  • Tracking behavior for real-time marketing;

  • Enhanced situational awareness;

  • Sensor-driven decision analytics;

  • Process optimization;

  • Optimized resource consumption; and

  • Instantaneous control and response in complex autonomous systems.

Associated with these benefits (and others) are the major driving forces that are pushing us at an increasing pace toward full IoT development and deployment. These forces include (at least) the following 8 motivating factors:

  1. Ubiquitous networks – personal wi-fi on your mobile phone and on every other device. Everyone (and everything) wants and needs to be connected.

  2. Connected computing – we want all of our devices, phones, televisions, music players, vehicles, etc. to keep track of what we are doing, viewing, reading, and listening to as we move through our day, from place to place – the handoffs from device to device are already happening.

  3. Ubiquitous sensors – on everything. It is already here – the Internet of Everything and the wearables revolution.

  4. Intelligence at the periphery of the network Jim Gray, the visionary database guru from Microsoft, envisioned smart sensors acting as a mini-database with embedded machine learning algorithms. Here is how he said it (10 years ago): “Intelligence is moving to the periphery of the network. Each disk and each sensor will be a competent database machine.”

  5. Analytics-as-a-Service – the API and App economies are already vast and growing – this enables any “thing” to “do something interesting” as long as it can connect to an API or invoke an App that performs a network-based service. The “thing” is a data generator and/or collector that also learns from, makes predictions, and maybe even takes data-driven actions in response to the data that are collected (through the versatility and convenience of an App or API call).

  6. Marketing automation – mobile customer engagement, geolocation, Apple’s iBeacon, etc. are all creating a network of knowledge about customers’ locations, intentions, preferences, and buying patterns. Of course, this degree of location-based knowledge needs to strike the right balance between user privacy and the timely delivery of useful products and services to that user.

  7. Supply Chain Analytics – delivering just-in-time products at the point of need (including the use of RFID-based tracking). Essentially, everything is a customer (including machines, automobiles, manufacturing plants, ATM machines, etc.), and the IoT is monitoring, watching, and waiting for a product need to arise.

  8. Aging workforce! Really? – Yes! There is a huge hiring gap in manufacturing, which is pushing toward more automation, robotics, M2M (Machine-to-Machine), machine log mining, 3-D printing, predictive and prescriptive analytics in the machines that are doing that work for us. As the classic rock song “2525” predicted would happen in the year 5555: “some machine is doing that for you.”

One of the major developers of IoT in the industrial environment is GE – check out the excellent recent article on “GE’s Vision for the Industrial Internet of Things”.

Several big data platforms are beginning to investigate the data challenges, communication standards, analytics requirements, and technology responses that the Internet of Things will bring to operational analytics and supply chain environments, but very few are architected to handle IoT. The data challenges include: high input rate, streaming (time-series) data, many small files, and the need for fast micro-adjustments in the operational environment. The biggest technology challenge will be the integration of everything: big data, cloud, billions of devices (IoT and M2M), and the network fabric.

All aspects of the IoT are likely to be huge, if not ginormous! As Bruce Modell (storage solution architect for CDW) has said: “Move over big data, here come ginormous data!” To learn more about the Internet of things, go here.


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