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Can the Internet of Things become the world's largest device market?

The alchemists of IoT

Karl Katewu
IoT
Finding gold image via Shutterstock

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the natural evolution of mobile, network, sensor, and embedded technologies; a nervous system which can connect anything with everything. If Cisco’s prediction of 507.5 Zettabytes globally generated IoT data by 2019 is anything to go by, the landscape of Internet of Things is most certainly the next frontier for software developers. Similar to the alchemists of antiquity, who sought to transform base metals into gold or find synergy between objects, IoT developers have the daunting tasks of distilling the anticipated flood of data.

Throughout humanity’s journey, we have been dependent on intricate interconnections which have facilitated the fluid exchange of data. This initial information exchange enabled nomadic hunter-gatherers to transition into farmers; later forming hamlets which in turn evolved into the cities we see today.

Arguably, such growth has been fueled by humanity’s ever-increasing interconnection of knowledge highways which have enabled ideas and insights to flourish.

According to a scientific study carried out by the University of Southern California, the estimated amount of humankind’s stored data across the world in 2007 was 295 billion gigabytes (or 295 exabytes). As mind-boggling as this sounds, these figures are destined for further growth, as devices which were once dormant and underutilized are brought into the fold to form an even greater, richer, interconnected data highway of things.

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The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the natural evolution of mobile, network, sensor, and embedded technologies; a nervous system which can connect anything with everything. As this system develops, interesting new ways will be conceived to process and share the data produced by these newly-connected assets in the hope of unlocking incredible potential and productivity.

Many IoT stakeholders are bracing themselves for an anticipated wave of creative disruption in almost every industrial field:

  • Traffic control: Road sensors can detect accidents or traffic jams and report back to the operations center in real-time for further analysis. Alternative routing decisions can then be suggested to other motorists.
  • Telemedicine and healthcare: A smart band with a number of sensors can continuously monitor your biometrics throughout the day, synchronizing data with your central medical records. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a new ink that can be printed on textiles to form highly conductive and stretchable connections. With the incorporation of sensing devices, this technology can be used for measuring a range of biological indicators, such as heart rates and muscle contractions.
  • Waste management: IoT can be used to track how much public dustbins have been filled and report back to the cloud. Collection teams can be optimized to only target filled dustbins. In this scenario, the main benefits would be towards time, costs and the environment. One such company currently making in-roads in this field is Enevo, which assists with optimized waste collection logistics.
  • Energy and utilities: With the use of data analytics and information, customers can be provided with the benefits of real-time monitoring, security, control and energy efficiency.
  • Agricultural smart farming: Intelligent connected devices can help farmers make better usage of water, identify and prevent the spread of diseases amongst their crop. According to Beecham Research, IoT has the potential to boost food production by 70 percent by 2050.

According to Gartner, IoT will have an estimated worldwide total of 20.8 billion connected things by 2020. GeoHive also predicted the world’s population to reach 7.7 billion by 2020. Therefore; for every person alive in 2020, there will be 2.7 objects connected to IoT.

Meanwhile, Business Insider (BI) predicted that in 2019 the Internet of Things will be the largest device market in the world, outperforming the smartphone, PC, tablet, connected car, and the wearable markets combined. BI also claimed that the IoT will contribute as much as $1.7 trillion to the global GDP by 2019. This will be inclusive of hardware, software, installation costs, management services, and economic value from realized IoT efficiencies.

According to CB Insights, as of 2015, the IoT space had attracted a cumulative $7.4 billion in investments across 887 deals. The most well-funded company was View, maker of an internet-connected smart window and environmentally-friendly building glass. Intel Capital topped the list as the most active investor in IoT startups; with a particular interest in wearable technologies.

IoT enablers

IPv6 offers the potential to build a much more powerful internet, with vastly larger scale compared to the current situation. Addresses in IPv4 have only 32 bits, allowing for only about four billion addresses, compared to 128-bit IPv6, with some 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique IP addresses.

Tip: If you are required to say this during a conversation, the number looks like this: 340 trillion, 282 billion, 366 million, 920 thousand, 938 — followed by 24 zeroes. More addresses than there are atoms on the surface of the Earth.

Sensors are small devices which measure some kind of data. Usually they have an analog input such as temperature, wind speed or another aspect of their surrounding environment. This is then converted to a digital output using limited processing and power consumption.

Further developments in WiFi will facilitate communications between remote sensor devices and central processing cloud hubs. Researchers from the University of Washington have invented a new Passive Wi-Fi, enabling transmissions using 10,000 times less power than conventional methods.

Power Over Wi-Fi (PoWiFi) systems would also enable devices to power and operate within a continuous energy-loop.

Cloud processing of data collected by IoT Gateways. The responsibility of the cloud would be to aggregate data, compute results based on data sourced from a multitude of sensors and make intelligent inferences.

Today’s IoT alchemists

If Cisco’s prediction of 507.5 Zettabytes globally generated IoT data by 2019 is anything to go by, the landscape of Internet of Things is most certainly the next frontier for software developers. Similar to the alchemists of antiquity, who sought to transform base metals into gold or find synergy between objects, IoT developers have the daunting tasks of distilling the anticipated flood of data.

Glimpsing insights and separating the signals from the IoT noise is where the real golden nuggets are to be found for the modern day alchemists, thinkers, problem-solvers, and software/hardware engineers, with the greatest opportunities lying in the following roles:

  • Cloud Computing & Storage
  • System Architects
  • Big Data Engineers
  • Security & Privacy Expects
  • Database Architects
  • Data Analyst
  • IoT Consumer Support Personnel (Soft-Skills)

As these IoT adventurers prepare to set out, they must be mindful of the challenges that await them. For example, how to efficiently and securely manage the numerous endpoints presented by the Internet of Things.

SEE ALSO: 10 skills IoT developers need

Another aspect would be the creation of scalable algorithms to fuse data from IoT and non-IoT sources so as to achieve greater context and cognitive reasoning. This, in turn, could lead to contextual expansions used to fuel the growth of learning systems such as IBM’s Watson.

More players will be identified as the Internet of Things matures, but for now developers are the ones to blaze a trail forward, finding a balance between analytics and creativity, data and value.

Trends of history

Every few decades we witness an incredible step-function in productivity. The Internet of Things is showing all the hallmarks of becoming not just a function of productivity, but also a vehicle of opportunity.

So how do we usher in the future of IoT? Start working. Start thinking. Start developing as the future of the Internet of Things is heading our way a lot faster than we think.

Author

Karl Katewu

Karl is a freelance writer, blogger, doer and techie for hire.

He has almost 17 years of experience ranging from technical software development, start-up life-cycles, management, and business operations in both technical; educational and publishing sectors; Karl has little trouble finding the sweet-spot for well-crafted content or creative solutions.


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