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The Internet of Things: Buzzword or Big Business?

The Internet of Things: Buzzword or Big Business?

With trillions of end-point 'things', device cloud platforms, subnets for humans, machines, sensor networks and rampant innovation being fostered globally, the Internet of Things could have the same disruptive potential as the Internet itself. As businesses gear up to get involved in this new marketplace, many are seeing the opportunity for enormous revenue as well as disruptive innovation.

The Internet of Things could be the next wave of truly disruptive technology.

Although the term Internet of Things is over a decade old, advances in technology, proliferation of connectible devices and supporting ecosystem of clouds and connectivity have accelerated the market significantly. Gartner defines the Internet of Things (IoT) as the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate, sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.

The burgeoning markets of energy management, smart grids, sensor networks and other intelligent systems, coupled with advances in IoT platforms and big data, have given birth to many innovations, start-up companies and big company acquisitions. The Google Trends chart below shows how fast the term "Internet of Things" has grown in interest over the past several years and that it is currently peaking.


Companies Advancing IoT Proposition

Google recently teamed up with O'Reilly's Data Sensing Lab and deployed  hundreds of Arduino-based environmental sensors at Google I/O 2013 in order to collect and visualize ambient data about the conference. The Google Cloud Platform provided the software backend for the project, while the sensors network provided over 4,000 continuous data streams over a ZigBee mesh network managed by Device Cloud by Etherios. (In case you are not familiar, Etherios Device Cloud is a public cloud platform for device network management - providing secure application messaging, data storage and device management for networks comprised of wired, cellular and satellite-connected devices.)

Many Players in the Marketplace

Building on the foundation of the IoT, the Cisco (CSCO) vision is the Internet of Everything, which it defines as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before. Cisco believes that there is a $14.4 trillion value at stake in this market, which combines the increased revenues and lower costs that is created or will migrate among companies and industries from 2013 to 2022. The factors driving the trend include mainstreaming of sensors, cloud computing and the migration of everything to IP networks.

Last month, Cisco acquired  UK-based Ubiquisys, which makes miniature base stations that let wireless service providers expand connectivity to locations that are otherwise hard to reach, particularly indoors. This fits into the Cisco vision for the Internet of Everything, where billions of devices can stream real-time data to power all kinds of decisions. Cisco is also very active in energy management solutions, and has acquired JouleX to further enhance its software as a service offerings. The JouleX Energy Manager monitors, analyzes and controls energy usage of all network-connected devices and system.

Intel (INTC) has developed an Intelligent Systems Framework for the IoT, and cites IDC data that predicts that by 2015 more than a third of the billions of connected devices will be intelligent systems - a market representing 4 billion units and more than $2 trillion in potential revenue. The framework addresses designs to enable connectivity, manageability and security, and looks at intelligent systems in communications, retail, vehicles, industrial and medical markets.

IBM's Smarter Planet strategy is over five years old and is designed to use data and analytics for decisions for building a smarter, instrumented, intelligent and interconnected planet. Recently the company launched IBM MessageSight, a new appliance designed to help organizations manage and communicate with the billions of mobile devices and sensors found in systems such as automobiles, traffic management systems, smart buildings and household appliances. MessageSight builds on Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) technology  which was developed by Cisco Systems, IBM, Red Hat and Tibco.

LogMeIn division Xively uses the LogMeIn Gravity cloud platform to power its IoT Public Cloud, which offers a way for disparate devices to connect with each other. Recently ARM and Xively joined forces  to promote the Internet of Things development platform. As part of the agreement, the companies are cooperating on LogMeIn’s Xively Jumpstart Kit, a "rapid prototyping-to-production bundle" that "significantly reduces the cost, complexity and learning curve" required to bring Internet of Things-based connected products to market, said the partners. The Kit combines ARM mbed, a platform for rapidly building connected devices using ARM-based microcontrollers, with Xively’s cloud platform, making the IoT a practical reality for anyone wanting to build Internet-connected devices and associated cloud-based applications, from small entrepreneurs to established Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

French cellular network operator Sigfox offers a low cost data transmission service that is completely dedicated to low throughput Machine-to-Machine/ Internet of Things applications. With its patented Ultra-Narrowband (UNB) technology and low throughput network it is transmitting the billions of data of the Internet of Things in a cost-effective, eco-responsible, efficient and reliable way.

The Industrial Internet

A facet of the IoT, called the industrial internet, layers smart software on top of big machines, generating big data to analyze. The promise of the industrial internet is that it will bring intelligence to industries that are capital-intensive and create broad value that all of the industrial internet's participants will share. In a white paper on the topic General Electric (GE) views the rise of the industrial internet as a third wave, following the industrial revolution, the internet revolution, and on to the industrial internet, which is automated and predictive, and provides machine-based analytics. GE believes about 46 percent of the global economy, or $32.3 trillion in global output can benefit from the industrial internet.

At a recent Cloud Connect conference, GE VP and Corporate Officer Bill Ruh said that businesses will experience a transformation as industrial machines become connected and intelligent devices. "We’re not discussing business intelligence," Ruh said. "We are discussing deep statistics, machine learning, and modeling to change our understanding of what is happening. This will require a foundational shift in our systems.”

GE invested in its industrial internet strategy recently by partnering with EMC and VMware backed Platform as a Service company Pivotal, advancing a broad research and development and commercial agreement. GE invested approximately $105 million in Pivotal. The investment and agreement with Pivotal will accelerate GE’s ability to create new analytic services and solutions for its customers.

European Advancement

Building on the increasing Internet of Things trend, Helsinki, Finland will host IoT Week 2013 June 16 - 20. At the event, they will bring a global perspective of the IoT, view IoT technologies and research, and discuss IoT entrepreneurship and business models.

Also, CASAGRAS (Coordination and SupportAction for Global RFID-relatedActivities and  Standardization) is a European Framework 7 project. Its mission has been to consider the international dimensions concerning regulations, standardization and other requirements for realizing the concept known as the Internet of Things, and the role within it of radio frequency identification (RFID).

Academic institutions are also involved. The UK Universities and science minister David Willetts recently announced a £6.2 million  competition  focused on the Internet of Things. The competition hopes to spur innovation in the area, announcing that eight business-led projects will develop smart applications across areas such as transport, energy and the “built environment.”

Disruptive Potential

With trillions of end-point 'things', device cloud platforms, subnets for humans, machines, sensor networks and rampant innovation being fostered globally, the Internet of Things could have the same disruptive potential as the Internet itself. Big data analytics opportunities will ride the wave as well -- working to parse and make sense of the flood of data coming from these intelligent systems.

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