Nothing is perfect and that includes the internet of things (IoT). In this month’s column, I discuss a few facts about the IoT that you may not realize are possibly hindering your commitment in delivering an IoT strategy. I’ve also included a few factoids, which may make you sit back and ponder.

1. The IoT is not a technology
You might not be able to see this right now, but I’m standing on my very large soapbox; trust me, it’s massive!

I’m standing on it to shout out to you all that the IoT is simply a term; a phrase that’s captured a new sense of excitement and imagination across an industry that’s always eager to deliver the next big thing, but a term nevertheless. My point, is that the IoT is not a technology; rather it’s a concept used to characterize the many interconnected “smart objects” or things and their unique ability to collate and, in turn, share information about their world. In other words, we empower our “things” in various contexts to ultimately gather data, which is specific to their environment. 

Often, I read or hear people refer to IoT as a technology and that’s certainly not the case.

2. The goddamn hype
The IoT is surrounded by a level of hyperbole that keeps overflowing and continues to pique the most excited of industry and thought leaders alike. 

The most notable supposition of IoT, which was proposed by Kevin Ashton back in 1999 whilst working at MIT, conjectured that “objects” or “things” could be tracked using radio frequency identification (RFID). With the furore of the internet during the 1990s, RFID was soon replaced with the Internet Protocol (IP) – one of the pivotal protocols used to enable the internet. RFID, of course, has now become an “enabler” analogous to other short-range wireless technologies. Ashton’s original proposition has been blown out of all proportion and nowadays, it seems, that the IoT will save the world!

Just stop it! Let’s be realistic (please).

3. The IoT is so much more than your thing
I’ve been guilty of this too – in my early career as a software engineer working with numerous wireless technologies, I was wholly focused on enabling “objects” or “things” and I loved it!

Whilst my thing, or device, was capable of harvesting data, it took me a moment or two to realize that there is indeed more to empowering the IoT than just the thing. You see, you have the thing that’s connected to the gateway (edge computing); the gateway connected to the cloud and then the cloud to the enterprise and business! You may even have to set up a new center of excellence (CoE) since your business might not be prepared for what’s about to happen!

Be prepared, be very prepared.

4. Data is the new currency
Wake up! I’m now shaking each and every one of you – hello? Yes, the data captured by your many things is the new currency – or as I recently read, data is the new “oil.” Anyway, irrespective of your preferred definition, data can help your business enormously, so long as you know what to do with it!

And that’s what brings me to this point – businesses, companies and industries struggle to know what to do with their data. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite suppositions: “With data, if you know the past and understand the present, can you predict the future?”

5. What are others doing?
Stop this – okay? Just, stop it!

In my personal experience, I’ve seen first-hand, stakeholders and senior managers with their budget-focused hesitation, failing to commit to a full financial and human resource investment in developing, implementing and deploying their IoT strategy. I am regularly asked the questions “What have others done?” and “What are my competitors doing?”

Why not just take a leap of faith and lead – have you ever thought that you might be the first? How would that add value to your business and company presence? Just saying.

6. Create your IoT book
When you have numerous team members and perhaps third-parties all contributing to your IoT vision, there’s an inevitable misunderstanding created through inconsistencies in terminology. With this in mind, a book, of sorts, should be created so that each team member has the same understanding. For example, what is meant when describing the attributes of a cloud gateway versus a field gateway? Likewise, what does your company understand about edge computing and how that might impact your IoT solution?

It’s best practice to establish a foundation of terms that are shared across the team. I’ve been in a situation where I used a term to describe exactly the same thing that my colleague was describing, but confusion was created through the different terms we used. 

Write that book!

7. There is no one-size-fits-all technology
Yes, the IoT is not a technology, but there are so many technology-enablers that help create, support and maintain such an ecosystem.

If we remove our stereotypical notion that the IoT is a technology and rather focus on the IoT as a holistic ecosystem with multiple components, we can then begin to understand how these elements comprising such a system can holistically create a harmonious unit that represents both our horizontal and vertical solution.

There is never a one-size-fits-all technology – let’s remove our blinkers and realize there’s so much more to the IoT than a component part.

8. Action speaks louder than words!
I have talked about the associated hype that surrounds IoT, but there is one important factor we need to embrace as thought leaders, and that’s “education.”

For me, this is a fundamental necessity in ensuring that consumers, business and industry educate those who will use their IoT products and services.

So, with your IoT strategy in mind, what should your customers know?

9. Business should take the driving seat!
I’ve seen in the news that most tech companies are planning to offer an IoT solution. It’s often a blanket statement with no detail or added value. But the business strategy defining your IoT strategy should keep in mind that the technology that empowers your IoT strategy is defined by real-world use cases, which help shape your overall vision. It’s all very well; you’ve checked the box that says “Do we have an IoT strategy?” But what’s the tangible solution driving business strategy investment?

Start developing solutions that solve real-world problems.

10. Be mindful of the hidden costs
You may not have all the R&D resources at hand and, in turn, may look to rely on third-party developers to help build your IoT solution. A third party may insist on owning the intellectual property of your design which, for me, is a big “no-no.” Similarly, such third parties may want a subscription or royalties imposed on services you have invoked. 

Lastly, watch the cloud computing costs. Yep, there can be some really big showstoppers here, since the cost may be levied on data throughput rather than number of devices (or endpoints) connected. Likewise, microservices used within the cloud platform may trigger additional costs when these services are instantiated and used. And yes, I’ve seen some very big numbers encroaching on thousands and thousands of dollars a month!

Be mindful of the hidden costs.

Until next time …
So this is where a “very cautious” Dr. G signs off.