The Secret to Success with the Internet of Things

    This is the year the Internet of Things takes off, according to some. If that’s true, the challenge won’t be coming up with ideas about how to use connected “things,” but rather, how to make it successful.

    This is not a small question. Cisco’s analysis found that there is as much as a $14.4 trillion economic “value at stake” for global private sector businesses over the next decade.

    There is just no shortage of ideas about what you can accomplish by hooking up a few sensors to the Internet. Heck, I have my own personal Internet of Things wish list, but some ideas already in production include:

    And all of those without even considering the most obvious use: Supply chains and manufacturing, where, really this all started with RFID.

    No, the question isn’t how do we put the Internet of Things to use — the question is how do we make sure it delivers on its value proposition?

    A number of factors will contribute to its success, of course. Smart design, open standards, great hardware and connectivity to networks (aka, Skynet, as Gigaom and my husband like to say) will all make or break individual products.

    Scott Morrison, chief technology officer at Layer 7 Technologies, argues that the key to real business success will rely on two factors:

    • Open technology that supports independent innovators — much like what we’ve seen with smartphones and apps
    • Ease of integration

    “IoT done right is Netflix, an innovator that came up with an open API that allowed all manner of devices to integrate using simple web-based protocols. Netflix could have easily screwed this one up,” he wrote in a GigaOm column. “Instead, they opted for open and well-documented APIs that leverage existing web understanding. The effect was to make integration accessible instead of intimidating—and in doing so, Netflix tapped into a vast developer population.

    “The result was a Cambrian explosion of applications and devices streaming the service. You would be hard pressed to find a modern TV, disk player, or media streamer that doesn’t now have a Netflix logo somewhere on the box.”

    Morrison and I actually talked about the Internet of Things and APIs when I interviewed him earlier this year. Previously, Internet of Things solutions relied on proprietary protocols, he said. If the Internet of Things is to become a major point of innovation, companies will need to use APIs and RESTful technologies to connect devices to networks, he contends.

    “The things are getting powerful enough to actually be able to do that, and the last thing we need are difficult to deal with protocols that are tightly bound,” Morrison said. “The RESTful method has taught us a lot about how to do distributed computing right, and we should take that to heart not just on computer-to-computer communications and mobile communications, but also on the Internet of Things.”

    He’s not the only one preaching about the importance of integration with the Internet of Things. Snaplogic CEO Gaurav Dhillon talked about the importance of integrating “things” with Big Data technologies at last month’s GigaOM’s Structure Data conference.

    In fact, he thinks companies will really reap the benefits of Big Data once they start bringing sensors online — and history suggests he’s right. After all, he points out, bar code scanning kicked off what’s now a $30-50 billion business intelligence data warehousing industry.

    “As big data looks for business value there is enormous business value in the Internet of Things,” Dhillon said. “Very certainly you see early indications like what Nest is doing with thermostats – that’s just the beginning of what we think is going to be an enormous wave of consumption and production in analytics.”

    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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