2014 was a big year for the Internet of Things (IoT). Much of the focus of IoT has been on the topic of connected things. I actually wrote about connected devices in this blog on five different IoT solutions that we might find useful. I touched on a few connected devices but there are literally thousands of connected things today, including home appliances, cars, umbrellas, clothes, factory equipment, sports equipment, pets, and other things – you name it, it’s connected.
However, there is one trap the much of the industry has fallen into: a connected endpoint isn’t really IoT, it’s just a connected device. IoT is about creating an entirely new experience that can change the way we live. For example, is a connected parking meter IoT? Well not really, it’s just a connected meter. An IoT experience would gather data, do some analytics and have a new process wrapped around it. In the example I gave, all of the parking meters should be providing data to an analytic platform that understands time of day, traffic flows, congestion and other factors that could impact parking in a city. All this data should be analyzed and then municipalities should have an app that can provide citizens with up to the minute information on where parking is available and where it’s not. I believe that people just looking for parking creates a significant amount of congestion in a city. This leads to more parking problems and more congestion – quite the vicious circle.
In this case, the “IoT” solution includes data, processes change, analytics, an application and people, not just a connected device. In one of my recent entries I pointed out how many IT and business leaders I’ve interviewed have a hard time understanding IoT value in any way other than conceptually. I believe it’s because so many of them are simply looking at a connected end point instead of an IoT solution based on an ecosystem.
The benefits of IoT need to be obvious and significant to gain adoption. In the parking meter example I gave above, the benefit to the citizen is that a ‘smart’ meter can make the frustrating process of finding parking in a city simple and streamlined. My wife goes through this every time she goes to Boston to get her hair done. It’s always 50/50 whether the parking lot closest to the salon has parking, if not, she then needs to double back to a lot further away. And if that one’s full she goes to one a few streets over. She either has to risk being late (which she often is) or leave extra, extra early to ensure she can park and still make her appointment. If there were an actual Boston parking app based on connected meters, cameras in parking garages, congestion, traffic flows, etc., this process could be significantly simplified saving her time, keeping more cars off the road and saving gas. A win-win for everyone.
If you want to read up on more actual IoT case studies, I published this piece last month on Network World. There is a bit of everything in there, including a way to streamline the ordering of Dom Perignon (an obvious use case for Silver Peak employees!), a connected mine, and a method of making ordering my favorite beverage, Diet Coke, more effective. There are also use cases from traditional developed nations as well as a number of third world countries.
Make no mistake, the era of IoT is here and it’s for everyone no matter the demographic or country. The key is to think about IoT as a process that involves connected end points, analytics and process change.