Michael Kanellos is Head of Corporate Communications and Technology Analyst at OSIsoft.
The dream is always the same: A new technology emerges, and it promises a new era of human capabilities and economic opportunities.
And best of all, it’s going to be easy! Incompatible standards and integration problems will be a thing of the past. There will be just one throat to choke. But soon it becomes an impossible, distant dream.
We’re in the midst of that pivot right now in the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT will have a profound impact, particularly behind the scenes in manufacturing and other heavy industries where shaving 1 percent to 2 percent of costs can mean millions of dollars and tons of emissions.
But it’s not reality. Nearly 75 percent of IoT projects are failing, claims Cisco. Projects that need more than two years to achieve payoff may fall into the “danger zone,” says Gartner’s Nathan Nuttall.
“You can’t just upload a bunch of data and have your algorithm magically spit out a hot dog,” one executive told me recently.
Why is complexity our fate? Because IoT is far more complex than you imagine. From the outside, utilities look like staid organizations. When you peel back the covers, however, you notice that these are organizations charged with running real-time networks sprawling across thousands of square miles. If Netflix fails, people grumble. If utilities go down, a spiraling crisis can ensue.
Here’s an example. International Paper tracks 45,562 data streams that produce over 68 million separate data points per day as part of its “Mill of the Future” project. Manufacturers face similar challenges. Extracting a year’s worth of one data point only takes a few minutes, but organizing 10,000 of them can take days. And this is only the mill; worldwide the company tracks approximately 1.9 million streams. The data will be the foundation for cutting energy or reducing product mishaps, but corralling it is a titanic job.
More importantly, no single company has a lock on good ideas. New markets drive innovation and competition. That’s the “real” problem if you want to call it that. The “IoT Platform” won’t be a magical piece of software. It will be a sedimentary fusion pulled together by system integrators and tribal wisdom.
So why does it have to be so complex? Because there are multiple layers within the IoT Platform:
- Device Hardware. Expect to see ARM, Qualcomm, Nvidia as big players in this space. People who make air conditioners, boilers and other equipment have incorporated electronics into their products for years, but the new demands from IoT, along with the opportunity to move toward “equipment as a service” business models portend plenty of hardware creativity.
- Networking. Mention networking, and you get a shrug. Wi-Fi, Sigfox, whatever works. Competition, however, will be fierce with different standards honing in on low power and others focusing on managing signals better in extreme and hazardous environments.
- Cloud Platforms. AWS and Microsoft Azure are the modern day equivalents of railroads and highways, the necessary foundation for other services.
- Data Management. The key factors here are volume and speed: can you organize the huge morass of information in a way to get to the problem quickly?
- Data management and access will also play a big role in the “edge vs. cloud” debate because it will likely become impractical to send everything to the cloud. IDC forecasts that 45 percent of data will be collected, analyzed and stored right where it was generated due to latency and bandwidth issues.
- Analytics. We will likely see the greatest variety here. Analytics vendors are already gravitating toward serving specific industries like pharmaceutical and mining.
- Exchanges. Data is the new oil, but unless you can sell it or get something of value for it in turn, it’s not worth anything. Will companies exchange data (anonymously) through Blockchain or will they resort to “industry clouds” like Clarient (an exchange for banking data) or Veeva (pharma) that cost more, but provide services? Chances are, both will co-exist for a long time.
But What About My Easy Button Dream?
Simple is incredibly alluring. Steve Jobs wanted to quash apps on the iPhone at first because it might pollute the integrity of the platform. William McNamara thought it was a mistake for Ford to come out with the Mustang. It already had a car everyone wanted: the Ford Falcon!
But sometimes you just need variety.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.
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