We are only a few weeks into the new year and the latest tech topic is clearly the Internet of Things (IoT) as a result of all the hype surrounding the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and interest created by Google’s acquisition of Nest Labs. While the market opportunities surrounding the IoT idea seem endless, the go-to-market challenges inherent in the brave, new world of connected devices are almost as daunting.
The first challenge is clearly defining the meaning of the term “Internet of Things.” I’ve always thought that the tech industry does a bad job branding its latest innovations so corporate decision-makers or individual consumers can easily understand them. The most recent example is the “cloud” concept, which plenty of people are still trying to comprehend.
While the idea of connecting almost anything together via the Web seems like a simple notion, only six percent of the respondents to a recent ISACA survey were aware of the term “Internet of Things,” and 92 percent expressed concerns about their information being collected by Internet-connected devices. These concerns were made even more real by the recent revelations regarding NSA surveillance.
The prospect of Google getting inside our homes as a result of its Nest Labs acquisition could heighten the apprehension of many consumers that don’t want their preferences and behavior tracked more than it already is via their mobile phones. However, Google and other IoT vendors are betting that consumers, and their corporate counterparts, will recognize that the potential benefits of the IoT idea will far outweigh the risks and put aside their security and privacy concerns.
In the same way many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and other cloud providers have appealed to “prosumers” to win a share of the B2C market in order to penetrate the B2B market, smart IoT vendors are employing the same customer-acquisition strategy. As a result, the consumerization of IT is expanding beyond the four walls of the enterprise to encompass every device and object the organization sells and supports.
The buzz surrounding the Internet of Things has also injected new life into the old-world idea of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The M2M market has been primarily targeted at commercial deployments aimed at improving the performance and efficiency of specific industries, such as tracking truck-rolls to improve distribution logistics. Now the IoT is targeting a wider array of possibilities ranging from connected cars and devices to wired homes and appliances.
The real objective is to better understand the flow of products and services to improve operational processes and better understand consumer behavior to better serve individual and corporate customers.
Although sensor technology and software tracking capabilities appear to make IoT possible, there are still many obstacles to success that need to be overcome.
First, standard protocols for collecting the data being captured by sensors and communicating that information across disparate networks will be essential.
Second, deploying APIs and other integration tools to permit the data to be digested by various applications and systems will be necessary.
And employing a new generation of cloud-based, Big Data analytic tools to interpret the data and make it actionable will be critical.
Jeffrey Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies, an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace (www.cloudshowplace.com), and the host of the Cloud Innovators Summit series (www.cloudsummits.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.