Big IoT Breakout Is Still Years Away, Experts Say

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    My preschool son has suddenly become captivated by volcanoes. Honestly, I’m not even sure how he found out about volcanoes, but he does seem to have a natural affinity for destruction and chaos.

    During yet another volcano documentary, I learned that Harvard researchers are testing a new monitoring approach that uses wireless sensors placed in streams near volcanoes. The hypothesis is that any upswing in temperature will correlate to increased volcanic activity.

    It’s the Internet of Things (IoT), in small, of course — a wireless sensor forming nodes in a wireless array, which sends data to a nearby base station. It’s called Lance, and the wireless network can send more data quicker than a similar approach that relies on radio bandwidth.

    That IoT will peak this year is the prediction of Gartner’s recent hype cycle— a situation that makes me wonder whether this type of niche use will wind up representing the IoT more than wireless refrigerators or even smart factory devices.

    It’s hard to know whether this is the beginning or the peak for the IoT. What is clear, however, is that organizations still have a long way to go before they’re really ready to leverage IoT technology.

    By contract, IDC predicts that we’re just beginning with the IoT. The research firm contends that the IoT is leading the “third platform.” That’s where billions of users and devices, with millions of apps, combine with Big Data, mobile and social technologies to make a distinct platform.

    This third platform builds significantly from the second platform (LAN/Internet, client/server and PC architecture, but with millions of users and tens of thousands of apps), which in turn is broader than the first platform (mainframes and minicomputers with apps and users on a smaller scale).

    But it will take until 2020 for one-third of all business to take place on this third platform, IDC predicts. What’s more, according to Paul Maritz, CEO of Pivotal Software, it will require a “triangle of data, analytics and applications” to effectively process all that data in real time.

    Internet of Things

    Michael Hausenblas, chief data engineer at MapR Technologies, contends that the missing element is Big Data. He writes in a recent Computer Weekly column:

    “… in order to develop a full-blown IoT application you need to be able to capture and store all the incoming sensor data to build up the historical references (volume aspect of Big Data). Then, there are dozens of data formats in use in the IoT world and none of the sensor data is relational per se (variety aspect of Big Data). Last but not least, many devices generate data at a high rate and usually we cope with data streams in an IoT context (the velocity aspect of Big Data).”

    Hausenblas argues that the first step will be establishing common requirements for an IoT data processing platform. He outlines four:

    1. Support for native raw data
    2. Support for a variety of workload types, including streaming and low-latency queries against semi-structured data (At scale — of course)
    3. Business continuity. Any data platform must be able to support service level agreements. “This is especially critical in the context of IoT applications in domains such as health care, where people’s lives are at stake,” he writes. No kidding.
    4. Any IoT data platform will need to address security and privacy, of course.

    So, while we may be maxed out over IoT hype, there’s still a lot of work to be done — both by organizations and vendors — before the IoT can ever reach the plateau of productivity.

    Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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