New uses for the Internet emerge every day, and the latest innovation, the Internet of Things (IoT), is creating new possibilities for both businesses and consumers. The IoT allows users armed with handheld computers to access and control devices remotely. As Internet access becomes ubiquitous, thanks to cellular and WiFi technology, any device with a power switch is being enabled for remote control via the Internet. For system integrators, this means new requirements for business customers that are developing and managing IoT systems.
IoT technology can be applied to any technology you can think of, from manufacturing systems to medical equipment to consumer electronics. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, and some analysts place that estimate even higher, at more than 100 billion. Most of those devices will be consumer-oriented, giving people access to remote devices from their smartphone or tablet. IoT systems provide communications between people and devices and from machine to machine in order to manage IoT-enabled systems remotely.
In order to meet growing consumer demand for remote control and to stay competitive, companies in all markets are working to enable IoT access. From cars to toasters, devices are being connected to the Internet in order to increase customer convenience and satisfaction and to gather more data about product usage that can be applied to improve products and increase sales.
There are innumerable consumer applications for IoT technology. Here are just a few examples of high-profile IoT applications that are increasing consumer awareness and demand for remote device access and management.
The smart home is gaining popularity everywhere. The number of advertisements promoting home connectivity solutions is growing every day, and homeowners have remote access to almost every aspect of their household, such as lights, heat and security systems.
For example, homeowners can use their smartphones in order to arm their burglar alarm, turn on lights and even monitor cameras from their phones. The same IoT systems are being used for related applications, such as remotely turning on the heat before arriving home.
IoT access can be extended to any household device. Consumers can use their mobile devices in order to control the stereo, the stove, the vacuum cleaner, the toaster or any other device with an IoT system. Machine-to-machine communications are also part of the new IoT-enabled smart home. For example, a fire or security breach can send an alert to your mobile phone at the same time it alerts the local fire department or police. Your alarm clock can even be programmed to start your coffee maker in the morning. The possibilities seem endless.
As more aspects of the smart home are enabled by IoT technology, consumers continue to expect more. As a result, manufacturers are looking for new ways to provide remote access to household devices, including centralizing data management and gathering data about consumer usage of IoT systems.
The connected automobile also is gaining market momentum with the promise of ultimately moving to the self-driven car.
IoT for cars is becoming more sophisticated as car makers use embedded technology for telematics and diagnostics. Today’s car is a self-contained, rolling computer network with sensors throughout the vehicle reporting back with performance data. This data can be transmitted to the dealer or car maker for diagnostics and performance monitoring, as well as displayed on the car’s dashboard or the driver’s smartphone.
Increasingly, connected car technology is being divided into two kinds of IoT systems—those embedded in the car itself and those enabled using external devices. Safety systems and operating software are being managed by automakers using embedded wireless technology. Tesla, for example, has been delivering software updates that can fix system bugs and deliver new features and system upgrades remotely. Tesla also has one of the most sophisticated smartphone apps to support keyless driving, environmental controls, and more.
Smartphones are increasingly becoming the preferred means of accessing car IoT systems because consumer bring their own connectivity, so car makers only have to support the cloud infrastructure in order to deliver data to handheld devices.
New Opportunities for Integrators
The explosion in IoT is going to demand vast data stores for IoT information, as well as the enterprise infrastructure in order to handle analytics. This will mean more cloud resources, larger cloud data pools and more virtualized server resources in order to handle the data.
There will be other requirements as well, such as development and integration of smartphone IoT interfaces. And then there’s security. Connected cars have already proven vulnerable to hacking attacks, and companies offering IoT services will have to develop new strategies for secure IoT data.
As more suppliers of consumer goods move to embrace IoT, resellers and integrators will be called upon to aid them in developing the infrastructure needed in order to support IoT. New data center requirements, cloud demands, big data analytics needs, and other elements will have to be fulfilled to make IoT invaluable to both companies and their customers, and integrators will be called upon to expand current enterprise infrastructures in order to embrace IoT opportunities.