Analyst views of the Internet of Things (IoT) vary drastically depending on how one defines the topic. As a result, there is the potential for much hype.
For manufacturers, IoT promises to revolutionise productivity, increase efficiency and drive higher profits for industrial automation, oil and gas, high-technology and electronics, pharmaceutical, chemical and utility systems.
In the factory, there will no longer be a difference between information and materials, because products will be inextricably linked to “their” information.
In Australia, the great enabler for IoT is the roll-out of high- speed broadband infrastructure. Faster, better connections will mean millions of devices will soon be interlinked.
IDTechEx has mapped the IoT ecosystem (as shown in the diagram), where IoT centers on things collaborating with things without human intervention at the time.
These things have internet protocol (IP) addresses, microcontrollers for local data processing and they sense.
IDTechEx see two main application sets emerging for IoT - consumer applications and industrial and government applications, such as infrastructure monitoring, lighting, transportation and process automation.
The latter will succeed where IoT solves problems, and this, based on history, can be more challenging than at first glance.
Manufacturers and other businesses seek a clear return on investment before investing, and the adoption of non IP based sensor systems has been slower than expected in many respects.
Many systems are used in closed loop scenarios where few nodes are used and there is more value in the complete solution supply.
Often there is some degree of supplier lock-in – using systems dedicated for a particular application (which tends to perform better than generic systems) which also helps to prevent the hardware from becoming commoditised.
With reluctance from incumbent suppliers, some of that may transition to IoT IP based devices in time, where hardware will be commoditised.
Governments have made huge investments in wireless identification and sensor systems and they do not seek rapid ROI but do things for improved security, efficiency.
Examples are governments mandating smart meters – the world’s largest mesh network using ZigBee, without which ZigBee would be a failure. Other examples range from tagging animals to passports to road tolling, usually very profitably for manufacturers and suppliers.