Almost every article and presentation on the Internet of Things (IoT) seems to start with an assertion about scale - x billion connected devices, y Zetabytes of data collected and so on. While such "gee whiz" data is eye catching, it seems worth looking for the more subtle, but groundbreaking changes in how the IoT paradigm affects the fundamental nature of many businesses - including that of Refrigeration Innovation (RI).
What exactly is the Internet of Things... IoT?
It is basically the interconnection of devices (things) to the internet so they can send and receive data for some value or purpose. Devices ranging from temperature sensors, coffee makers, thermostats, light bulbs and almost anything else you can imagine. This connectivity allows us to obtain valuable data and control from virtually any internet connected device.
What's behind the Internet of Things?
So what are the technology shifts that have created a potential for IoT business value? It's worth giving credit to at least the following developments:
- Pervasive connectivity: The use of cellular communications infrastructure and unlicensed wireless networking has created an almost worldwide infrastructure for data transmission that runs parallel to existing wired connectivity. Widespread consumer uptake of broadband and wireless communication over the last 20 years has driven not only global availability but very dramatic reductions in equipment and service costs.
- IP protocols: The protocols at the heart of the Internet have proven durable for large scale point to point communications, but also effective at a device to device level. IP has created a base level intercommunication, device management and security mechanism that can be supported by devices of almost all types and resource levels.
- Miniaturization: The continuing impact of Moore's Law has relentlessly driven down both the cost and the power consumption of even complex, powerful electronic functionality. With low current consumption, battery power and wireless links make devices very compact and independent of physical connections.
- The Cloud: A fundamental revolution has happened in the availability of computing and storage on an as needed basis - almost rendering the purpose built corporate data center obsolete. At the same time as incremental hardware resources have become available, powerful software building blocks for online services have been created that are also available on a service basis. With device connectivity comes data collection, and these online services are offering almost limitless storage resources for this data - big data - and a growing suite of software tools to harvest its value.
- Data analytics and AI: Some of the powerful tools that become available through the cloud model are those process and present an analysis of the huge data sets that connected devices offer. The analysis value comes in many forms - data about the connected itself, data about the system to which it's attached and - with Artificial Intelligence - engines that detect and respond to signals buried in data noise and that can directly take useful actions as a result.
Do Technical Improvements Really Revolutionize Business?
As you examine the pieces of this puzzle and how they relate to each other, the potential for new streams of business starts to come into focus.
- Battery powered connected devices with reasonable lifetimes and wireless networking broaden the reach of what can be measured and controlled with minimal expense.
- IP connectivity - along with mobile web technology - provides a universal baseline for application access, presentation and control on desktops and phones.
- Cloud and service paradigms lower the barrier to entry of sophisticated back ends and enable truly scalable business ventures.
With reliable, real time insight into what's happening at their customers premises, the business context in many industries has the potential to transmute from a one-time purchase revenue base to a more predictable and scalable recurring service model. With the power of cloud computing, the treatment of incoming data - and the decision making potential buried in that data - gains in sophistication and reliability. The leap forward here is very substantial - an improved quality of service with a reduced upfront cost. And a business model behind the curtains that creates a better synergy between revenue and cost base. Moreover, with the power of the ubiquitous smartphone, the footprint of the services offered becomes almost instantaneously global, opening up a potentially larger target market.
SensorSimple - a True IoT Solution
Although IoT in the consumer press often discusses the development of "smart home" devices and related gadgetry, the range of IoT applications deployed or under development is truly awe inspiring - from medical devices to autonomous cars, from industrial control to smart cities and smart agriculture. And this is where RI's new SensorSimple solution fits into the picture. SensorSimple takes advantage of all the technical trends and advantages identified above - offering automation, data aggregation and AI managed alerting with simplicity at the forefront of its design. Alongside all this it's highly scalable and compatible with future development of new sensors and cloud intelligence. All in all, its a simple, yet radical solution who's time has arrived.