Benjamin Mandler’s IoT Forecast: 'A context-rich paradise of data'

IoT industry veteran, Benny Mandler, (IBM and COMPOSE), shares his predictions for the future of IoT in EAI’s novel research project – Forecaster. See what he has to say about tomorrow’s Internet of Things, stay tuned for more expert opinions, and see Forecaster’s conclusion at the IoT360 Summit!

  1. Transformational – The IoT brings with it a revolution, not just another piece of technology that some geeks are excited about. We are talking about an “all the way to the roots” transformation in the core aspects of many industries. That’s the main reason why everyone is keeping an eye on IoT advancements, and a reason why most enterprises are reluctant to be the first to jump in. The cost of waiting too long may be crucial. Enterprises that choose to cover their eyes in the hope that this technology storm will pass so they can go back to business as usual, may soon find out that all they can see is the dust left behind by their competitors who boarded the IoT train.
    I see this as an opportunity rather than a threat. We need to embrace the potential rather than be afraid of the change. And yes, we must be daring. Enterprises and humans alike are reluctant to change, but the current environment leaves us no choice but to go for it. Not blindly, but with open eyes looking for the completely new kinds of opportunities that are out there. Some success (and less successful) stories are already changing the landscape and inspiring us to take the plunge.
    Business models will shift for many industries; thus, it is better to think ahead rather than be dragged from behind.
  2. Why now? The perfect storm: data, cloud, and expectations. Data as the new natural resource (as noted by IBM), ever expanding data sources, becoming aggregated, correlated, analyzed to produce a vast ready to be explored territory. Cloud: provides the scale, robustness, elasticity, integrated environment for businesses to exploit and consumers to enjoy. Finally, the web 2.0 and mobile eras have changed the perception and expectation of consumers and new habits of sharing have prevailed.
  3. The focus will soon shift from consumer applications to enterprises and large enterprises, including their internal procedures and external services. Today we are primarily seeing consumer facing IoT applications. The large acceptance by the general population will lead to expectations from enterprises, who in turn will have no choice but to embrace the IoT. This trajectory follows quite closely the introduction of mobile applications. From a mostly consumer target, encouraged by the growing expectations and the looming potential, enterprises embrace and are following a mobile-first agenda. Industries will start putting their hands in the IoT water; the brave will win even though some large flops can be expected.
  4. Number of (free) IoT platforms to increase, but start changing characteristics. We’re currently at a stage not long after the big bang in which there’s mostly chaos. Each initiative is moving independently with high speed in a different direction. Soon we’ll reach the stage at which the gravitational pull will start playing a role and individuals will realize they are not alone in the universe; they have to take into consideration the other players. This will lead to open interoperable IoT platforms, across devices, technologies, and application domains. Looming on the more distant horizon is a consolidation of IoT platforms into a couple of large ones. The business model won’t call for paying for the actual platform, which will continue being mostly free. It will use a more cloud-like approach in which the pay is per use and accompanying services.
  5. Number of standardization efforts to increase. In a similar fashion to the prediction regarding IoT platforms, a similar course of events is expected in the standardization world. Currently chaos reigns, with new standardization activities and alliances introduced every other week. Because enterprises realize that this is a big market with huge potential, everyone wants to be there and pull the market towards their own vision (and of course there are the ones who just want to be there, in many such organizations, mostly as observers to keep an eye on what’s going on). But since standardization and inter-operability is crucial for the IoT to enjoy to its full potential, reality on the ground will determine which are the de-facto standards (potentially at different levels) that will dominate the market. It will be an open and standards based market since it’s too big and heterogeneous for proprietary solutions to prevail.
  6. Large enterprises jump start their effort by acquiring small players. Not all enterprises have the know-how to make the necessary transformation. As a result, we’ll see a growing amount of acquisitions of small IoT players by larger enterprises. Small players can be technological enablers, or business models that can prevail in an IoT based corporate economy. There are plenty of IoT start-ups out there, mostly dealing with vertical applications, while the more successful ones will be the ones that can bridge across silos.
    In addition we’ll see partnerships all over the place to cover more terrain, share the risk, and make sure they don’t act alone.
  7. Power to the gateways: Edge computing to join main stream IoT cloud offerings, so the prevalent multi-tiered architecture shall be: device, gateway, cloud. Now, and for the near future, the most popular gateway is … your smartphone. This arrangement brings with it a lot of complications regarding what should be deployed where, what should run where, who connects to who, what information flows and in which format and direction. The gateway will start playing an increasingly important role as it can help with issues of security / privacy, data locality (bringing the computation to the data), and timeliness (in which there’s not enough time to send all the data to be processed centrally in the cloud back-end). In addition, the gateway will be part of the line of defense coping with big data issues, such as a distributed source of data processing, potentially reducing the amount of data flowing into a cloud back-end.
  8. Security / privacy aspects continue to prevail. The Achilles heel of all this complex structure lies in security and privacy aspects, both technologically and how these are perceived by the end consumers. This is an issue that will accompany us for many years, since it’s very difficult to solve hermetically. But just as we learned to live with it on the web and in mobile devices, people will learn to live with the risk in IoT based systems, because of the perceived advantages, Even in some of the most sensitive fields, such as healthcare, people will use IoT applications, will get alarmed by periodic security breaches now and then, but will continue using their IoT applications.
  9. Analytics meets cognitive: The age of analytics – The focus will be less on connectivity and more on the upper layers. When it comes to connectivity, we’re doing fine. For data storage, we’re doing OK. Now the big challenge is what to do with the vast amount of data we captured. This challenge will continue growing as most of the data produced or possibly available isn’t being tapped. To make the challenge even larger some of the data and scenarios have certain characteristics that place additional strain on the analytics part. One example is time-based validity, namely conclusions stemming from that piece of data should be available within X amount of time, otherwise they’re not relevant anymore. IoT data management should be a combination of historical and real-time data processing, fed into an “understanding” machinery to provide information and insights from raw data.
  10. Contextual / personalized computing – that’s the end game. Context is king. People keep on sharing information about themselves like there’s no tomorrow. Combined with open APIs and data, this blends into a context rich paradise of data just waiting for data analytics consumers to dig their teeth in.
  11. From vertical to horizontal: For the short term, 1 – 2 years, most success stories will still be around applications targeted to specific vertical markets. Longer term successes will shift towards consolidation and the standardization of efforts, since the business model behind it is more viable.
  12. Accelerated growth and penetration – As with many beginnings, the wheels start turning slowly, making a lot of noise. But as they gain momentum, they turn faster and faster and reach new grounds. A similar trend can be seen and is expected to intensify in IoT. It is real, it is present, it is here, and it will grow fast and reach far and deep. Development cycles are expected to shorten, as the expectations go even beyond the ones for web and mobile. The crowd wants instant gratification and excitement. Glory goes to those who can satisfy the masses.
  13. Democratization – developers and data rule, rather than the size of the enterprises. As more devices are connected, and more data is being made available, most of it for free with open access, and working with open platforms, the name of the game becomes: who has the most innovative, cool, and helpful application. That can and will often come from the legend of a couple of guys in the garage rather than from a couple of guys on the 20th floor of a corporate building.
    IoT devOps will level the playing field for the multitude of developers to rush in with their creative ideas. This complements the move started by mobile in moving the power from large enterprise to creative individual developers.
  14. Wearables – The next big substrate of IoT. As in other areas, this will start by being a big thing in the consumer market and will slowly (or not that slowly) find its way to enterprises. The initial use in enterprises will be primarily for internal processes, or as a part of an external service offered. Smart watches are in the lead and a large fragmentation of devices will follow. If I had to guess I’d say that medical related wearables will be the first big thing.
  15. Interoperability will remain an issue in the near – mid-term at all levels. A siloed approach will still prevail.
  16. Finally, a killer app? All this large and complex technology and infrastructure, PhDs, conferences, just to get more but better targeted ads?

Benny Mandler will discuss his Forecast in a panel with an IoT expert Fabio Antonelli (CREATE-NET). You will not want to miss their Technology Forecast session at the IoT360 Summit in Rome on October 27th-29th!