IoT- the next buzzword of the industry! Imagine a world where your mobile can be used to cook food and wash your clothes-the whole gamut of electronic devices connected through an intelligent network, ready at you service, just on the click of a button. This is the glimpse of future, which IoT is projecting into the minds of the people.

Now if we look at the present, roughly about fifty petabytes of available data on the internet is because of human activities like typing, scanning or taking photographs. This unlimited data without any structure or accuracy is of no use –this is where IoT can help to not only gather but also use data to efficiently draw a pattern for the benefit of the humans. So why to think about it now? The decreasing cost of technology with sky rocketing penetration of smart devices are creating perfect platform to invest in IoT.

But, how important is this from the business point of view? Until and unless you have the potential to commercialize an idea, it is of no use to a business. How huge is the market for this can easily be hinted at by the fact that the mobile industry continues to scale rapidly, with a total projection of 4.61 billion unique mobile subscribers at the end of 2016. By 2020, another one billion subscribers are predicted to be added, making the global penetration rate to approximately 60%.

At the end of 2014, there were 7.1 billion global SIM connections, with an additional 243 million machine-to-machine (M2M) connections.

Let’s start our journey to study the footsteps of IoT  across various companies and industries.

Across Companies View

Everybody is talking about “The next big thing” but the fact is that there is no next big thing-the next is now! From smart devices to smart wearable and from remote controlling to mind controlling-the stage is all set for IoT to take its position. Hovering over few tech pioneers, we can have an idea of how the things are progressing in the field of IoT.

Intel is a company where connected objects were always a matter of interest and that may be one of the reasons that IoT, IoE and connected objects was the fastest growing verticals of the company in 2014. In line with its vision to be a leader in the field of IoT, Intel launched a new IoT consortium and its very own platform for various companies to deploy, test and secure connected devices.

Another giant Google is quite silent on this front as of now. But, let’s sneak through the curtains and see the hidden play. Google is performing in many fronts comprising of Google IoT Cloud Platform (Tools for scaling connections, gathering and integrating data), Brillo IoT(OS for IoT) and The Thread Group(determining ways for IoT devices to talk to each other). Its acquisition of Nest and launch of Google Beacons (Open source alternative to Apple) are other steps in the direction of pioneering IoT.

Talking about technology, how can we forget about one of the oldest tech giant in the industry-IBM!

With a workforce of just over 1400 employees and $3 billion investment, it has started to build an interconnected and intelligent IoT environment for better operation efficiency. IBM is also engaged in designing a portfolio in IoT with the help of its cognitive computing (Watson) and big data analytics capability.

In this dynamic era of online marketing, let’s not forget the ecommerce leader –Amazon. In 2013, it stepped into IoT by introducing a platform called Kinesis to process real time high volume-data streams from various numbers of sources. After that Amazon launched a range of IoT devices from user bar code readers to Dash Buttons (an intelligent button which can be put across various surfaces in the house and when pressed restocks the consumable items). Its recent acquisition of 2lementary (a startup that developed enterprise-focused platform to manage IP enables devices and other connected machines) and development of its own connected-home assistant hardware clearly defines its future plan in the field of IoT.

Salesforce with its launch of IoT cloud, powered by scalable real-time processing engine called Thunder is creating waves in the industry. Thunder is an integrated set of platform services which offers services for modern user experience, application development, compliance, identity management and many more.    

Drawing the lines from all these companies, we can see that how these companies are innovating themselves day by day to be in the race of the next biggest revolution.

A recent survey conducted by IDG in association with Intel pointed at the attention which IoT is getting from the business leaders across the industries. It also felt that the top four industries which will benefit from IoT are automotive, energy/utilities, consumer electronics and technology. It is not surprising because there is not enough available information about IoT and this scenario is true even in its core industry - the IT industry. It is quite clear that it has lot to prove to the leaders of IT industry. Fortunately we have a range of examples across the sectors which projects endeavors in this area.

Energy utilities are using PMU (Phasor Measurement Unit) data real-time analysis to understand the events in the power grid. This enables them to formulate a proper response as per the required issues and that also with a quick turnaround. Power grids of the future will be both smart and reliable which will enable the power companies to automatically collect data and analyze the behaviors of consumers as well as suppliers.

By using IoT to connect people, product and services the energy companies are streamlining the flow of information to increase asset performance, improve real time decision making, and improve the final productivity and efficiency. Investment in IoT is therefore paying off in terms of better customer service, increased return on investment and better quality.

 

IoT and sensors

Although automation has been in the field of Gas and Oil industry from decades, investment in IoT is being done to further explore the use of sensors, analytics and networks to predict degradation of equipment and failures in pipeline, oil fields and refineries. If we consider the effect of evolving markets and environmental concerns, geographically distributed workforce and  impacts of failures or delays, just business automation software will not able to cope up with the demand of this mammoth sized industry.

Considering the risks involved in upstream, midstream and downstream processes, IoT can readily help to mitigate it and ensure regulatory compliance and business results.

Here’s how IoT is driving the production efficiencies in Oil and Gas sector:

  • Selection of right drilling machineries with the help of the data received from interconnected devices and sensors, thus resulting in increased efficiency in drilling operations
  • Sensor data linked to ERP helps in efficient supply chain management, inventory and working capital management
  • Reduced failure rate and early detection of errors due to extensive data (temperature, geological and seismic features, density and pressure) gained from sensors on drilling machines
  • Accelerated go to market strategy because of auto monitoring of midstream processes
  • Some of the initiatives in this direction are connected fuelling(BMW AG), connected logistics(Essar), connected asset management and remote services monitoring

 
Efficiency gains

IoT enabled devices make the operation is Oil and Gas sector more efficient and productive than traditional technology and conventional automation.

Consumer electronics-a field where we can see the IoT come into picture in daily life. From morning walk to a good night sleep, we are surrounded by a network of devices which are controlling our lives. IoT makes these devices smart, opening new realms for their application and use. With these devices you can live in a living home, which can do all the work for you on your command.

Let’s have a sneak peek into some of the interesting facts uncovered by a survey released by Consumer Electronics Association:

  • Over the next five years, shipments for connected-home devices will grow at CAR of 67% which is far more than the growth of Smartphone or tablet device
  • Sales for connected-home devices will rise at a 52% CAGR to touch a figure of $490 billion in 2019
  • The share of connected-home category in broader IoT category will increase to approximately 27% by 2019
  • The start of the take off will be through adoption of home-energy equipments and safety and security systems

With IoT equipments coming to picture, the whole landscape of your everyday life is going to change. You can make your dinner before reaching home, make the dryer run when the electricity rates are cheapest, turn off the ac when the room temperature reaches a particular set temperature and many more such cool stuffs which you have only seen or imagined in sci-fi movies.
Challenges

The main challenge which hinders the adoption of IoT is the non uniformity of the coding language due to which devices are not compatible with each other.  This is the reason why Apple has launched an innovative HomeKit app to connect its Smartphone to home products.

Samsung acquired “Smart Things” to coordinate and control devices which have been manufactured by different firms. Google spent nearly $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs-Learning Thermostat-maker. Nest is in touch with multiple tech giants like LG, Whirlpool, Osram and Phillips to make their products to talk to each other. As an example when locked or unlocked with August Smart lock, the Nest thermostat will automatically be switched on or off and so will be the Whirlpool washing machine synced for its dryer cycle.

For IoT to reach its full implementation, involved sensors need to be self sustaining i.e. we should not be changing the batteries now and then. There is a requirement of generation of electricity within the sensors by the use of environmental elements like light, vibrations and heat. In this direction, scientists at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (2011) have designed a nanogenerator which is a flexible chip and uses body movements to generate electricity.

Another challenge will be the security of the data because major chunk of the data will be roaming in the clouds. With the volume of the data rising, the level of security breach will also be following a spike.

Figure 3 Growth of IoT (Source:http://www.i-scoop.eu/internet-of-things/)

 According to a Cisco projection, there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and each such node should be protected and with multiple manufacturers coming into picture will produce siloed security standards. This can lead to multiple problems in the realm of IoT.

IoT- Next Steps

According to Gartner, we are shifting from an era of Internet of Things to the era of Pervasive Digital Presence (PDP). We have reached a point where the use of IoT has moved from costly and propriety use in industries to cheap and ubiquitous use in nearly all spaces. 

The advent of sensors and actuators has really made the IoT solution available to the business in a routine and inexpensive way. The time is ripe for the integration to happen between IT security and OT security. It all now depends upon how fast the industries align and adapt to this evolving trend and technology-the race is on!

(About the author: Vivek Kumar is a senior consultant at Capgemini. This article originally appeared as a two-part post on his Capgemini blog, which can be viewed here and here).

 

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