IoT, and IwTMonday, May 21st, 2012 by Roberto Saracco
Let me share with you a contribution I have been asked from COMSOC on IoT and IwT…
It is happening. More and more objects (mostly sensors so far) are connected to Internet. Take a look at Pachube, as an example (https://cosm.com/?pachube_redirect=true). They started just 5 years ago with the idea of providing a place where people can send information generated by their sensors and share information. Now they have hundreds of thousands of feed. I have no connection, nor interest in Pachube, but I take them as an example of what is happening:
- ever more objects are connected to the Internet
- it is getting easier to do this
- there is a growing interest in sharing data
- start ups are at work to figure out how to leverage from this new phenomenon.
Now, lets go step by step.
Why is this happening? Easy, because it can!
Electronics is cheap, and getting cheaper by the day. Hence you can have embedded electronics in many objects. It is also much less power hungry so that you can power it by scavenging stray energy in the environment. No connection to the mains needed (nor expensive battery to change after a few days or months…).
Electronics and software makes object aware of their environment. They can sense a variety of characteristics around them and convert these into data. Welcome to the growing world of sensors, a world that HP estimate to reach hundreds of billions by the end of this decade (CISCO has a lower forecast but still in the number of many many billions…).
Communications is getting more and more pervasive. You don’t need to look for a gateway to connect to the Internet. The environment is, more and more, the connection gateway. The advent of LTE, or 4G, is a further step in this direction: it has larger capacity (not really needed for most “Things” on Internet, but useful when you have a growing demand from -paying- human beings and you do not want to cut your revenues by letting other stuff to chew into your capacity) and moreover it has the capability to provide a native IP connectivity. Now, this is crucial, since it makes possible to connect a “thing” with a chip costing 50c, rather than, as is the case today with 2 and 3G, with a stripped down cell phone that is still costing 20+ dollars.
COMSOC is active in all these “enabling” technologies, from radio to networks and protocols. It is also active in the sensor area as well as in application areas (including Health, possibly a driving business for IoT).
Is it business as usual? NO, it is not!
Our telecommunications network were designed for symmetric traffic at 64kbps with individual transaction lasting about 3 minutes. A nice gaussian shape. Internet has changed that. No more symmetric but asymmetric flows (the A in ADSL…) and no more 3 minutes average transaction but longer and bigger capacity eater (video is now the dominant traffic on Internet).
Our (telecommunications) network has evolved to managed this, we have developed CDN (Content Delivery Networks), the architecture has changed to manage head ends and to shadow/mirror content around the network in a distributed fashion (by the way transforming our hierarchical network into a massively distributed and interconnected data bases).
And now, its change all over again. That gaussian curve that changed its shape to become an S curve with the Internet of Video, now changes its shape again to become an inverted gaussian with its lowest point representing voice-human- communications. On the right the curve grows pushed up by video consumption (and generation – more symmetry than before…) and on the left grows pushed by the billions of tiny transactions generated by the IoT. As the curve changes, new architectures are required and, most important, new biz models are needed and they in turns are being “invented” by new players.
And COMSOC, again, is on target, looking at the future of internet, at future network architectures.
Is IoT the next Big Thing? NO, but is is an enabler!
IoT is using a limited traffic capacity and it is not going to generate tremendous revenues to Operators in terms of traffic sale. Actually, the growing computation power in objects has already shifted most services outside of the network (owned by the classic Operators), so in a way it is decreasing their revenues. New biz models to leverage the value of sensors have not proved successful, so far at least from the point of view of the Operators.
However, the IoT are a piece in a puzzle of the connected world and mashed bits and atoms. This is what I call the Internet WITH Things (IwT).
Imagine a world where everything you see and touch is wrapped in bits and services, through a seamless connectivity and personalization of the interaction. If you pick up a bottle of wine or look at a monument you will be involved in a multimedia perception customized to you and your context. Who can provide this customization? Surely an Operator. It is a world that have to be seamless and simple, and it is going to be a very complex world in terms of interacting technologies. Because of this gap between the complex reality and the need for seamless, simple perception there is a need for management and that is an area where Operators can have their say. It is not going to be easy, there will be many, qualified, competitors for what is to become the new communication market and fabric, but it is a market where Operators can play.
COMSOC is now at the edges of this new marketplace. It probably needs to partner with the Computer Society and with the Consumer Electronics area,…. and with several others. And it is a game where COMSOC can be a big player.