It’s probably the understatement of the century so far to say that the future of the enterprise depends on a successful Internet of Things (IoT) deployment. As the economy transforms from the selling of products to the selling of services, companies without a top-notch IoT ecosystem will be at a distinct disadvantage to those that have mastered the technology.
But there are a lot of components to the IoT, and it isn’t always easy to tell what works and what doesn’t, especially at this stage of the game.
One of the things to keep in mind, however, is that it isn’t so much basic infrastructure that defines the IoT, but the higher-level architecture. As RT Insight’s Joe McKendrick points out, the planning and scoping of technology resources into a master IoT plan is crucial for success, but only if it incorporates the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. In that vein, organizations should build IoT architectures around four key principles: fast data ingestion, a scalable operational database, automated event triggering, and data export for long-term analytics. At the same time, IoT architectures will have to devise novel ways to incorporate legacy back-end systems into data flows.
Already, leading IT vendors are pushing IoT platforms that can be easily integrated into legacy IT architectures. Microsoft just launched a new cloud-based tool called IoT Central that strives to simplify both the deployment and management of scalable environments. The system is so simple, in fact, that the company is pitching it toward business users who generally lack in-house IT and cloud experience. As a fully managed SaaS offering on the Azure cloud, IoT Central can be deployed under the Azure IoT Suite for deep customization and intuitive control, while at the same time providing a means for developers to reconfigure backend systems for emerging IoT functions.
Few organizations will create their own IoT environments from scratch, so it pays to look at what makes some commercial IoT platforms more forward-leaning than others, says IoT Evolution World’s Megan Ray Nichols. A key consideration is seamlessness, which provides a smooth and connected experience for users and providers alike. As well, top platforms will place security as a core component that accommodates the rapid exchange of data across multiple owned and third-party systems. At the same time, it should emphasize damage minimization over 100 percent security, given that breaches are inevitable in such a disparate ecosystem but the speed and effectiveness of the response will determine the extent of the consequences.
Judging by the successes and failures in the IoT so far, it’s also pretty clear that the enterprise should not overlook the IoT user experience going forward, says IoT for All’s Hannah White. Particular when building a consumer-facing service, organizations should resist the temptation to over-engineer the interface. Most users, in fact, are not even aware of what the IoT is yet; all they want is a service that is integrated easily into their lives and performs a valuable function. The basic rule of thumb here is to place the needs and emotions of the user before the basic functions of the product during the design period.
As with most technology initiatives in their nascent phase, there are undoubtedly a million ways to get the IoT wrong and only a few ways to get it right. In time, the market should determine the basic elements for success, and from there the enterprise will have to differentiate itself through continuous innovation.
But to turn a popular phrase on its head: People won’t come to the IoT just because you’ve built it. They will come because it can provide services that can’t be obtained anywhere else.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.