The Internet of Things is Changing how We Live and Work

Stephen DeAngelis

December 13, 2018

The word “thing” is both broad and ambiguous. According to Thesaurus.com, “thing” can trace its origins to Norsemen who used to gather in a public assembly they called a “bing”; a term picked up and used by the English. The Dutch called such an assembly a “ding.” By the 1600s, the term had morphed to “thing” and was used colloquially to indicate something, at the moment, a speaker couldn’t name or recall — as in, “You know what I’m talking about, that thing your mother used to do.” Eventually, the plural of the term referred to items too numerous name — as in the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a network of networks bringing countless, unnamed machines together. However, when most people discuss the IoT, they are really talking about an ecosystem consisting of sensors generating data which is transmitted (via the IoT) to a platform capable of analyzing the data and initiating appropriate actions.

 

Nishtha Singh (@nishthasinghuk), a Presales Manager at TatvaSoft UK, asserts, “Advances like the internet of things have brought about solutions to complex problems in diverse areas from astrophysics to biological systems, automation, precision, etc. … Few years ago, IoT was the shiny new object in the room that just emerged as a new paradigm for communication and commerce, and the world brimmed with possibilities. In the present scenario, IoT has not only fulfilled those nascent dreams but even has succeeded in becoming the undisputed foundation of the digital age.”[1] Although Singh makes it sound like the IoT is a fully mature technology, it’s not. There are still bugs needing to be worked out. Nevertheless, John Edwards (@TechJohnEdwards) notes, “The Internet of Things is already making a significant impact in a variety of business areas, including industrial monitoring and production, supply chain tracking, and multiple retail processes. Down the road, experts see the IoT becoming nothing less than an integral aspect of everyday life.”[2]

 

Overcoming IoT growing pains

 

Billions of “things” are currently connected to the IoT. Edwards reports, “These include door locks, industrial robots, traffic lights, smoke detectors, heating and cooling systems, smart cars, heart monitors, trains, wind turbines, and even toasters. The total number of connected devices will reach 20.4 billion by 2020.” Like a maturing child, the IoT is suffering a few growing pains. Most of those pain points are associated with standards and security. Nelson Petracek (@NelsonPetracek), CTO at TIBCO Software, explains, “Gartner has warned that three-quarters of all IoT projects will take twice as long as planned to implement, and IoT security (or a lack thereof) has been called ‘a doomsday scenario waiting to unfold.’ It turns out that IoT is hard! Tackling this complexity is core to capturing the promised benefits of IoT.”[3] Standards, complexity, and security represent some of the challenges facing full IoT implementation. Ryan Webber (@Rwebber10), Director of enterprise mobility at SOTI, believes misunderstandings (i.e., myths surrounding IoT implementation) are also challenges needing to be overcome.[4] Those myths include:

 

Myth 1. IoT projects must be big. Webber writes, “This is the single biggest myth around IoT, and the one that has led to some painful early disappointments. The IoT is a long-term trend that promises to improve business over time, not a short-term fad that will transform everything overnight.” Like any new technology, implementing IoT should be a decision based on need not simply the desire to adopt the newest technology. The IoT can undoubtedly help businesses overcome numerous challenges; but, those challenges need to be identified along with a vision of how IoT can help overcome them. Webber explains, “Many early adopters invested far too much in hardware without knowing which business problem they were trying to solve, what integration hurdles they would have to face, or what business processes it would impact.”

 

Myth 2. You need to change everything. The origins of this myth are understandable. Most business analysts are telling Industrial Age companies they must transform into digital enterprises in order to survive in the Information Age. Transformation implies a total change and it’s easy to get caught up in the fervor. Webber explains, “It’s tempting to get caught up in planning a long, comprehensive digital transformation initiative. But often, that’s a mistake. Successful companies are effective because they have systems and processes in place that are reliable and serve the business. Instead, look for quick wins that build credibility and make an immediate difference to users.”

 

Myth 3. Siloed data and siloed approaches give organizations the right tools to carry out business. I have written numerous articles about the disadvantages created by siloed data. Organizations maintaining siloed data find corporate alignment difficult because departments operate using different sources of “truth”. A similar thing can happen when departments set out on their own to create IoT solutions. “A major advantage of IoT,” Webber notes, “is that all your systems can be connected and communicate with each other. But without a solid plan and proof-of-concept implementations, companies often end up with a hodgepodge of siloed solutions. They end up spending more time monitoring all the different systems instead of making progress. Smarter planning results in smarter systems. Think ahead.”

 

Myth 4. “Good enough” will get you by. Business leaders are familiar with an adage attributed to Soviet Admiral Sergey Gorshkov, “Better is the enemy of good enough.” In other words, waiting for something better before proceeding on a desired course can cause unnecessary and costly delays. However, when it comes to the IoT, Webber strongly disagrees with that philosophy. He writes, “Forget ‘best available’ hardware. Instead, think best imaginable.” This holds true for both hardware and software. According to Webber, “It’s far smarter to do small proof-of-concept implementations.” At Enterra Solutions®, we recommend clients use a “crawl, walk, run” approach to solution implementation. This approach allows solutions to be tweaked and proven before being scaled.

 

Myth 5. Fix one pain point at a time. Although Webber endorses attacking specific business problems (i.e., pain points), he believes doing so without an overall vision or plan can prove disastrous. He explains, “Forget point solutions. Instead, think end-to-end. The reason why point solutions work poorly for IoT is right in the name: it’s the Internet of Things — plural — not a single entity. When projects are uncoordinated, companies often end up with a set of unrelated and inept point solutions. Each of these might be considered the ‘best’ for its individual task, but often they are not ideal for a complete, coordinated system.”

 

Concluding thoughts

 

“In spite of the Byzantine complexity and myriad threats involved,” writes Petracek, “IoT adoption continues to accelerate, with analysts forecasting nearly $15 trillion in aggregate IoT investment by 2025.” Considering all the headaches IoT implementation can create, Petracek rhetorically asks, “Why is IoT adoption accelerating?” His answer is simultaneously blunt and simple, “Basically, it doesn’t matter if it’s hard — it has to be done if you want to do business in the modern world.” IoT devices are predicted to be so ubiquitous they will inevitably affect how we live and work. Although I’ve concentrated on the connectivity part of the IoT ecosystem, the real value is obtained from the when cognitive technologies gain insights from and take actions determined necessary by analyzing massive amounts of generated data. Organizations that can’t tap into this network of networks are likely to fade into obscurity.

 

Footnotes
[1] Nishtha Singh, “It’s Time to Welcome IoT by Reshaping Your Workspace,” Customer Think, 22 December 2017.
[2] John Edwards, “The Internet of Things: Still Lots for You to Learn,” InformationWeek, 11 January 2018.
[3] Nelson Petracek, “Is Blockchain The Way To Save IoT?Forbes, 18 July 2018.
[4] Ryan Webber, “5 myths about the Internet of Things that it’s time to forget,” Information Management, 11 October 2018.