The IoT: are we there yet?

The concepts of the Internet of Things (IoT), Internet of Everything (IoE), Industry 4.0, autonomous driving, smart cities, eHealth, and relatives, have become ubiquitous in our daily lives.

The IoT Solutions World Congress and the Smart City Expo World Congress were celebrated in Barcelona by the end of last year again. These events evidenced the facts that there is a non-stoppable growing interest from the industry and from the users into all these concepts of connecting things and getting value out of gathered data, and that technology is getting mature enough to provide real and cost-effective solutions.

However, the IoT is still not present in our daily lives. Why?

From my view, the success of the IoT will come from at least three different fronts:

  1. Societal acceptance,
  2. Capability of getting value out of it, and
  3. Availability of technology to leverage its potential.

Let’s elaborate them a little bit.

First, the IoT needs society to accept it; that’s a fact. The 4th Industrial revolution brought by the Internet of Things will change our daily lives forever. This will imply destruction of jobs where involving a human being brings no added-value. At the same time, new jobs with remarkable added-value brought by the human factor will be created. These new jobs will require highly skilled people, which is good on one side; however, we will need to face the challenge of relocating non-skilled labor.Otherwise, technology will not be accepted by society and may fail in achieving all expectations. In addition, the acceptance of the IoT by society must be driven by ease of use of technology and, above all, trusted security and privacy mechanisms. If we cannot put secure and private communications into place, people may be reluctant to connect their homes, cars, or health-monitoring devices to the Internet, thus failing to push this fourth wave of innovation. The IoT is about enabling transparency, and transparency is not always what we want.

Second, it is essential that we manage to find ways of monetizing the IoT and actually getting value of connecting things. Indeed, it is not just about connecting all things, but just connecting those things which can bring some value by being connected. We can see out in the press and professional social networks lots of news informing of new start-ups attracting funding from venture capitalists and business angels. Also, big tech companies are acquiring small-sized start-ups which are growing rapidly to provide IoT solutions. However, it is still not clear what the business models may be behind all this buzz. It is clear that the market is huge and the opportunity is unique; however, still ways of understanding the IoT ecosystem and value chain model creation are to be further understood. We have seen already in the past good technology hypes which have ended in nothing due to the lack of a clear value generation model. The IoT will not be the same, but still some efforts are required to ensure this. The best is yet to come.

Last, but definitely not least, technology must be ready and put into order to make the IoT and the 4th Industrial Revolution a real thing. One of the key domains of technology relevant to the IoT is connectivity. Today, connectivity technologies are still
not ready to provide efficient Machine-Type Communications (MTC). These are radically different from Human-Type Communications (HTC) and need a redesign of communication networks, sometimes, bringing into play new disruptive paradigms. Efforts are clearly being done, but still more work is necessary to enable applications where reliability and extreme low delay are necessary, or those where zero-power
operation enabling perpetual operation of devices is sought, or those where tiny low-cost embedded sensors need to be able to transmit real-time video monitoring data.
The near-future will bring a new generation of communication networks (5G) which will coexist with a plethora of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies as well as short-range communication technologies (Zigbee, WiFi, Bluetooh, LiFi, RFID, etc.).
However, still changes will be necessary after 5G is defined to cope with the rapidly evolving needs of new IoT applications being created and envisioned every
day. Concepts like the tactile internet, where data can be transmitted with zero-latency and jitter from one end to another, are non-trivial to achieve. Therefore, further research, development and innovation actions are required. In all this process, it is necessary to ensure that standards come to a certain common agreement; otherwise, the current unspecified arena may lead to nothing good. As I heard recently in the LPWA event
2016, also in Barcelona: “noise does not help anyone”.

So, to wrap up: The IoT: are we there yet? I would say that we are on the right way to make it happen, but still many challenges need to be solved before the IoT becomes really omnipresent.What do you think?

 

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