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By Amitabh Ray, Managing Director, Ericsson Global Services India
Embedded wireless chips on medicine bottles to help patients follow their prescription regimen; from reminder messages, to refill and doctor coordination. Real-time data collection and alerts system to let municipal services know when a bin needs to be emptied. Sensors embedded equipment to monitor to identify and report faulty parts in a manufacturing process.
From our homes, to factories or lifestyle, the Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer a buzzword among technology futurists but a reality that is transforming our lives, businesses. The examples above have moved from the mind to the marketplace and are actual products or services on offer. Analysts’ forecasts that by 2020, there will be a quarter billion connected devices. It has a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025 when real-time connectivity will be omnipresent and the new normal. While the figures of connected devices and financial projections vary, there’s unanimity that IoT is on!
The IoT Opportunity
IoT represents the combination of devices and software systems, connected via the Internet, that produce, receive and analyze data to improve quality of life, efficiency, create value and reduce cost. It opens up an enormous economic opportunity as all enterprises, individuals, devices. Networks become a part of an ecosystem that is really a system-of-system or a Networked Society. This will create a massive surge of demand for connectivity, which will be superfast delivering in excess of 100 mbps connectivity, reliable and always available with 10 mbps being the minimum speed.
In the IoT era every device must have an identity; whether a unique identity assigned through IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) or MAC (media access control) addresses or, alternatively, some other means such as RFID or a generic identity.
Connectivity the Enabler
Connectivity will be the enabler of IoT; this makes the role of telecommunication mission critical in making IoT happen and unleashing the vast economic opportunities. This cellular connectivity has to be scalable to handle the massive flow of communication between devices, flexible enough to handle the peaks and troughs of data flow, with the highest quality of service with near zero downtime as critical functions will have to be always stay connected, and ensure security as organization and individual information will become a part of this vast ecosystem of a Networked Society.
As IoT connects devices, enterprises and people there will be a massive demand for high quality real-time connectivity which is beyond what the current 4G technologies can handle. Assume the scenario of an autonomous car driving down a busy highway sensing vehicles around it and reacting instantly to other cars. These would demand real-time response in which 5G will make available sub-millisecond latency.
Real-Time Analytics is the Value from IoT
Analytics will prove to be a crucial element in terms of providing value from IoT devices. Indeed, the greatest value in terms of analytics will be derived when systems are capable of drawing data from multiple data repositories in order to analyse and perform actions based on contextual understanding of data. As data sets expand and machine learning techniques are applied, actions can be taken pre-emptively in order to increase systems’ usefulness.
IoT the Disruptive Force
As technology advances enable more devices and applications to be connected, this will inevitably disrupt the existing business models and create new ones where idea owners with entrepreneurial enthusiasm will create platforms to provide connectivity between providers and users of services or others will use open APIs to connect their services to these platforms and reach users across the world. These platforms have to be on the cloud to enable access anytime, anywhere and any device.
There is already a huge momentum for IoT devices, but certain challenges have limited the potential for large-scale adoption across a variety of use cases, namely: the cost of IoT devices, device battery life, and cellular coverage in both remote areas and deep inside buildings. Ericsson’s new IoT Networks Software 16B reduces IoT device cost and in a recent breakthrough, the company along with other partners including chipset provider Altair have unveiled a new power saving mode that will help IoT devices run for a decade on one set of batteries. Security will be another critical challenge in the IoT era when valuable data will be exchanged across devices and platforms.
Are We Ready?
Even at this early stage, IoT is starting to show real impact. It is changing how goods are made and distributed, how products are serviced and refined, and how doctors and patients manage health and wellness. Capturing that potential will require innovation in IoT technologies and business models, and investment in new capabilities and talent. Perhaps the biggest impact will be in skills required in the IoT economy. We need to have the relevant skills to be successful when everything speaks with everything, when machines manage themselves, when factories are automated and controlled remotely. It will not only disrupt business models but careers as well and unless we’re ready with the right skills.