Despite the headlines and all the pizzazz, hardcore software application developers haven’t been quite as frenetically fuelled by the arrival of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) as the publicity arms of the technology industry itself. This is not a negative, this is a positive — and this is because we already had a name for these technologies dating back as the start of the 1960s… and it was called embedded computing.
Embedded systems started off inside military missile systems, but soon progressed (somewhat less aggressively) to the implementation of embedded processors inside calculators for the consumer market. In the modern (post 1980s) age of computing we started to find variants on these same kinds of embedded motherboards and processors inside everything from airport “kiosk” screens and cars — and then we finally accepted that almost everything had the potential to have a computer in it.
But these devices were not connected, until the web arrived.
Embedded circuitry still has its place
With the arrival of the web in the nineties we had the chance to rename embedded systems something along the lines of “embedded connected Internet computing systems”, but we chose not to.
Largely because embedded circuitry still has its place to play in a disconnected (or at least only occasionally connected) world. The Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything works better to describe connected cameras, sensors, web-enabled refrigerators, home heating systems and other temperature sensitive household devices — and cars and airport kiosks to for that matter — along with everything else in between.
So where next for the IoT? Will it actually produce web-enabled refrigerators with date-tagged milk cartons capable of re-ordering themselves from an online shopping service once they expire? The answer is, technically yes; we can already do this, but culturally not always.
Success depends upon three factors, the questions are:
- Have software application developers been inspired to produce these new technologies in the first place?
- Is the IT industry capable of manufacturing these new IoT technologies at an attractive consumer price point?
- Do users find a cultural fit for these new devices in terms of the way they want to live their lives?
Highways filled with robots
This cultural factor is important i.e. many say that we could have driverless cars in widespread use by the end of the end of the decade if we wanted to. But would we as humans be happy with this with our existing road infrastructures by 2020? Probably not, no – we don’t want to drive on highways filled with robots, not in this next decade we don’t.
What the next five years will bring in the Internet of Things is a little less sexy, but no less thought provoking. The supply chain will adore the IoT. Connected factories and plants will be more effective and productive than non-connected work zones and firms in all verticals will have the opportunity to help streamline processes with new functional cloud services.
SAP’s 2015 projections for the IoT have pointed to manufacturing, “Companies are integrating factory-floor operations with core business processes to optimize production with real-time updates from machine data and gain predictive analytics to automate parts and consumable ordering to maximize revenue,” said Michael Lynch, co-lead, Internet of Things, SAP.
The German software maker also points to the less obvious area of financial services and banking saying that IoT is just beginning to emerge in the financial services sector as retail banks are still grappling with the cost/benefit ratio of implementing IoT technology.
“However, as banks seek new ways to engage customers and increase their line of business opportunities, they will begin to use IoT-enabled incentives to grow their customer base and make banking easier and more rewarding. Three emerging trends in this space include mobile banking, spending tracking and wearables,” stated SAP’s Lynch.
What millennials & digital natives want
Telecoms will also be significant. According to IDC, there are already nearly 200 billion computerized devices, with 20 billion of them wired and communicating via the Internet, and more than 50 billion sensors that track, monitor, or feed data to those connected things. Last but not least, retail will also be huge for the next IoT implementations within areas like inventory management, targeted sales promotions and the opportunity to talk to this new younger generation of users that we call ‘millennials’ or ‘digital natives’.
Where do we go from here? That’s actually a comparatively easy question to answer. If we have spent the first half of this decade connecting devices to the Internet and creating the Internet of Things, then we will spend the latter half of this period connecting these things to each other and integrating the back end.
“With all this telemetry being given off by people, vehicles, machines and even the humble UPS package, workflow systems (BPMS) will soon spend more time interacting with devices than they do with people. It’s not that people will stop doing the work: they’ll just stop going the paperwork,” said Kevin Parker, VP of worldwide marketing at ‘orchestration technologies’ company Serena Software.
So will the robots take over by 2020? No, not if we keep programming with culturally price-sensitive control in mind they won’t.
This article was written by Adrian Bridgwater from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.