What's going on with Internet of Things

by Albert Putnam February 02, 2015

Al Putnam recently attended the IoT events and shared the thoughts what's going on in this field.

There is a lot of discussion lately about Internet of Things - the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Among the latest events on this topic was a great seminar sponsored by the  Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council at Parametric Technology Corporation, which I attended on November 4, 2014 - How Smart, Connected Products are Transforming Competition. This event coincided with an article in Harvard Business Review - How Smart, Connected products are transforming competition. This article identifies ten questions businesses should ask themselves. Here are my thought on these events and an article. Looking at steps:
1. Monitoring.
2. Control.
3. Optimization.
4. Autonomy.

I could not help but think about the roots of IoT in tracking/viewing things. The order should perhaps still be:
1. Monitoring.
2. Optimization (based purely on what is monitored and outside of any actual  IoT  programme).
3. Autonomy.
4. Control - Control is last because one should understand the situation before taking action.

Of course, in many cases there are limits (safety, regulatory, privacy, moral, etc.) on what can be controlled. Most of the value is in monitoring and optimization. Some situations never get to control.There were questions during discussions about :

When will industries standardize? What are we waiting for?
1.      Leadership from Apple, Amazon, Google and so forth were cited for consumer.
2.      Leadership by the main players are often cited in commercial industry. But there is a commercial incentive for non-standard approaches (differentiators) in many situations.
3.      Cooperation and collaborative openness. There are examples of collaborative standardization. There are ecosystems which makes it easy to exchange, normalize, coordinate, aggregate and analyze data.

Examples of collaborative standardization:
•       BACnet in buildings.
•       Sunspec in renewables.
•       MTConnect in factory systems.
•       OPC (XML DA) in automation.

And the following too – if, and ONLY if, the mapping/schema is well known... the universally accepted schema is the heart of the matter

•       Modbus in industrial. The depth of Modbus (all the way to sensors), and the breadth of its installed base, should not be ignored.
•       SNMP in IT.
•       RESTful exchange in commerce.
•       Any XML in any domain.
•       MQ (message queuing) in any domain.

SQL is often hauled out as an exchange method. There is no universal public schema for any database system. Such a schema would be orthogonal to the performance needs of a database.
As a final word. Smart connected things without goals and analytics are fruitless. Goals need not be set in stone, as they are generally informed by analytics. Tactical drives the strategic and vice versa. They are two sides of the same coin. Planning is essential but plans are useless.

Albert Putnam
Albert Putnam


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