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Where are the key opportunities for building the IoT for the future?

Internet of Things

It has been predicted that by 2020 there will be an increase in the current level of 6 billion digitally identifiable, potentially linked, electronic devices to 50 billion. This proliferation and the concurrent dramatic increase in pervasive data are creating disruptive opportunities and possibilities for new services and significant savings through leveraging more intelligent systems. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a vision of a number of technologies and services that, combined with the huge amounts of available data, will drastically modify the way our societies function at every level. Smart devices and smart machines will communicate over ad-hoc networks of devices, sensors and actuators working together to improve the quality of our lives, whilst enabling efficiency gains in deployment costs, operational expenditure, productivity, energy and the end user quality of experience. 

Key areas for collaborative working

A Special Interest Group investigating the potential of the IoT has identified four key areas as focus areas for collaborative work to unlock the emerging opportunities that IoT can present. In particular,‘INTEROPERABILITY’ and ‘PEOPLE CENTRED DESIGN’ are believed to be areas that can serve a focal point to cover multiple challenges and opportunities.

Read the full report here.

The report also includes some interesting appendices, for example, Appendix A covers 2013 Interoperability and standards mapping, a subject that seems to be a stumbling block for many. 

A summary of the recommendations established are as follows:

  1. Interoperability framework – within and across sector boundaries:  Multiple interoperability challenges exist within sectors and specific systems. The problem is compounded when services and information flow across boundaries. The problem is often treated as a STANDARDS problem but many standards are already fit for purpose and the nature of IoT means that trying to influence all of the different standards is not practical. The challenge requires a different approach to work with interested bodies to establish an 'INTEROPERABILITY FRAMEWORK' which could become a design guideline and best practice for an emerging IoT eco-system. It will also drive a process that identifies 'STANDARDS' which are not fit for purpose and may require new standards or modification of an existing STANDARD to create a new profile. 
  2. Boost the development of new products and services by involving designers in the development of new products and services at all levels, including the creation of tools: Designers are already creating new products that cut through the disparate technologies and various supply chains in order to create new experiences. Designers need to inform the development of the tools and services of the future in order to ensure that the tools and services offer the capability to create the rich experiences that IoT can deliver. In addition, designers can help to guide the creation of new experiences that have far-reaching impact, streamlining the complexity and identifying a passage through the vertical supply chains. In summary, situating designers in multi-disciplinary teams leads to clarity of vision and helps to bring a richer, and more streamlined, scoping of the tools.  
  3.  Spectrum usage modes and suitable radio technologies: In recognition of the reliance of wireless based systems for IoT nodes, user platforms, short range, LAN and WAN based technologies, radio technology and spectrum usage modes will need to be advanced to solve protocol, energy and RF front end efficiency. The current level of technology and spectrum usage modes is not fit for purpose for future IoT usage and scale. Example: IoT scale will cause problems with ISM band interaction. 
  4.  Creating robust platforms: IoT node development will present a combination of challenges relating to energy efficiency and design robustness. Any node cannot afford human intervention to 'reset' and therefore will require a quality level similar to safety systems, such as embedded system design principles used in the automotive sector. The smart-phone analogy used in the report is valid but current technology is not fit for purpose for IoT in terms of being 'zero-reset' and 'extended battery life'. The challenge includes adapted radio protocols, OS, S/W and H/W acceleration and low power analogue RF.  

Read the full report here.


Background to the report

In October 2011, the IoT SIG published an Interim Paper setting out the challenges and opportunities facing business innovation and development in what was an emerging Internet of Things space.

The report identified a set of emerging 'silos' of activity - developments taking place within separate market segments which were beginning to explore and test services and products which exploited the possibilities enabled by device-to-device communication, and internet-enabled interaction between objects/things and people.

That report referred to the Internet of Smart Silos: a business growth curve which could be achieved if those sectors continued developing in their silo-ed way. The Report kicked-off a programme of 'Thought Leadership' - a series of seminars and round-table activities, through which to explore and test those assumptions. Alongside other activites supported by the SIG, that Thought Leadership programme began to explore how a different growth curve could be fostered - a much steeper, more profitable, growth curve, built around an 'Internet of Things'.

This new report is the final outcome of that body of work.

It makes a series of important observations and recommendations, and forms the basis of a new phase of activity for the SIG and for its partners.

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