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IoT Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow


We live in a very Internet-connected world.  More than just your laptop to the Internet or your cellphone to your wireless carrier - I’m talking about your toaster.  Yes, the Internet of Things (IoT) is all around us and the big question is, where is it going?  Over the past 15 years, IoT comprised more of verticals in what was labeled as “M2M”, connecting machines to machines.  Industrial applications such as hazardous location monitoring, remote site industrial applications and commercial GPS tracking solutions were some of the early adopters to what we now call IoT.  We could think of this as the first Internet connectivity of machines through common third-party providers and value-add service partners, but in reality the idea of remote connectivity goes much farther back to the late 20th century.

This was a time when the “Internet” did not exist and industry leveraged proprietary, non-Internet based solutions called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems. These systems were designed for specific purposes to pass information from a remote location, sensor or machine to an operations center.  SCADA systems were one of the first communication methods to enable monitoring and issuing commands to remote systems.  Thus SCADA systems were independent systems with no connectivity to other systems. Even though these systems did not connect to a common Internet, they provided remote M2M connectivity that prompted innovation and spawned the advances we see today.

Moving forward 20 years to the year 2000 or so, remote connectivity included more than industrial applications and leveraged the Internet for connectivity through, in most cases, a wireless connection. The Wi-Fi Alliance was officially one year old and analog cellular data using CDPD was taking off. With the maturing of the Internet a very common set of protocols (TCP/IP & UDP) were being leveraged to allow independent data-monitored systems to leverage the Internet in order to provide ease of routing and access from a remote site to a central station.  The availability of common wireless systems also generated exponential growth as device manufacturers, service providers and end users had access to commonly used transport methods. Within a few years M2M became a buzzword and industries from vehicle tracking to utility monitoring became widespread.  And as these transport methods grew and matured from analog and 2G into ground-breaking technologies such as 3G, LTE, CAT-M1 and CAT-NBIoT, it led to larger scale deployments across hundreds of industries. This was still an area heavily focused on industry verticals and designing applications that could provide a calculated return on investment (ROI) through efficiencies in labor and machine utilization.  It had not yet reached “en mass” consumer adoption.

Then came “IoT”.  This is an era where the lines are blurred between hard-lined ROI and what I term “Lifestyle Conveniences”. For instance, it is simple to calculate the savings a company would see when a vending machine supply truck only needs to be dispatched to sites that require restocking based on IoT data analytics, but how do you calculate the value of a magnetic fob on your washing machine that orders laundry soap with a press of a button?  There is value in both cases, just more difficult to measure the latter.

But even though consumers cannot be provided measurable returns, there exists an entire industry in catering to this new era.  Couple this with the advancements in data transport through cellular back haul, value-add service providers such as KORE, large data storage entities such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, data analytics software, and IoT-tailored devices we see a whole new world of opportunity.  The goal in my view is to leverage all of these exciting technologies, provide both consumers and industry the opportunity to gain both ROI and lifestyle convenience without totally removing the ‘human element’.

As we see the predictions of, "$150 billion spent on devices and applications" or "30 billion IoT devices by 2020", one tends to wonder what won't be connected. Maybe that blue light on your toaster is not just telling you it's set for 'Bagel'. 

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