By now all of you would have probably heard the words ‘Internet of Things’ or commonly known as IoT at somewhere or the other. However, I am certain that quite a few of you are still wondering whether it is only a ‘façade’ promoted by developed countries or does it actually make ‘sense’. Ever since ‘the internet’ became mainstream, its usage and applications have grown by leaps and bounds – from communication to research to job searches to entertainment to shopping to travel .. and the list goes on and on. If you look closely, there is a commonality – most of the applications that benefitted from the power of the internet have been ‘people oriented’. It has mostly been by the people, for the people and about the people. However, times are changing now and with technology advancements, the internet is enabling the ‘objects’ (aka ‘things’) to communicate what they sense and feel – to human beings (aka ‘people’) and also to ‘other things’. The way we humans have been sensing changes through the power of our sensory organs – ‘eyes’, ‘skin’, ’tongue’, ’skin’, ’nose’, the internet has given the power to the ‘things’ to share their experiences. Thus when you apply the 3 characteristics of an IoT device – a. has low-cost sensors, which can detect something, b. connect to the internet, and, c. transmit information, you will such devices are ubiquitous. Examples range from – consumer wearable, smart homes, healthcare, building automation, There are already thousands of existing examples of IoT-enabled devices in a wide range of competitive arenas, including consumer wearable, smart home, healthcare, building automation, connected energy grids, manufacturing etc. Thus, the fabric of IoT is being rapidly woven through ‘people-people’, ‘people-things’, and, ‘things-things’ relationships.
Chapter 2: Why Now?
So the next question, you will be wondering about is – all of the above is very much logical and there doesn’t seem any rocket science behind it. So why the ‘sudden’ push. IoT is happening now because of a combination of complementary factors:
Decrease in Hardware costs: True to Moore’s law, not only the size but also the cost of embedded sensors and microcontrollers have decreased significantly. This has made it possible for people to add connectivity to physical objects at a reasonable cost.
Advancements in cloud computing: Data in huge volume and speed can now be ingested and processed in the cloud infrastructure. This has helped to overcome the limitations of on-premise data storage.
Communication Networks: Technologies like 4G, LORA, BLE, ZigBee, RFID and upcoming ones like NB-IoT, it has become possible to transmit data with decreased consumption of energy.
As the hardware, software and networking companies are becoming more tight knit and getting into symbiotic relationships, the IoT network stands to become humungous.
Chapter 3: Does it apply to me?
Now, we know that IoT is in fact ‘happening’ and there are ‘forces’, which are pushing it in the right direction. However, you might still be unsure ‘if’ and ‘when’ it will be of any value to you. The applications of consumer IoT are enormous and you can potentially find its application in every spectrum of your life. But, in the next few lines, I will be talking about IoT application from a business, i.e Industrial point of view. If you can put yourselves in the shoes of any of the following, rest assured you will reap benefits from IoT adoption sooner than later:
A factory owner who wants to improve the productivity of his shop floor.
A device manufacturer who wants to provide customized maintenance services to his customers.
A fleet owner who wants to track the efficiency of his fleet and manage assets.
A Solar plant owner who wants to lower O&M expenses and forecast production.
An owner of a revenue generating asset, who wants to reduce downtime of his machine.
A manufacturer who wants to update his on-field devices from a remote location.
These are only a few ones and the list is limitless…
Chapter 4: What If?
All of this sounds like a fairy tale, but what about eminent challenges. How do we address them:
I have legacy and dated machines in operations, which don’t seem to be IoT-enabled – can I still connect them to the network?
I don’t want competitors/ hackers / or anyone with malicious intent to get hold of my data – Is my data secure?
I run a very low margin business, so when can I see returns on my IoT investment?
I am a factory operator/ service technician – will IoT take away my livelihood?
My forte is manufacturing goods, will developing software and data analytics capabilities cost me a bomb?
Here, I will try to answer the above questions based on my understanding and experience:
Retro fitment of hardware with appropriate embedded software will transform any legacy device to a connected ‘thing’.
Security protocols and standards are maintained at multiple connectivity points to ensure the safety of communication.
While returns in the form of labor efficiency, greater visibility etc. will be visible from the first week of deployment, cost savings from predictive analytics will take a few weeks to reap the benefit.
Of course NOT, it will rather improve your productivity and enable you to work on greater opportunities.
Developing software and analytics tools for IoT should be left to the experts for a faster, easier, cheaper and customized deployment.
I would like to end this by sharing the words of famous novelist Ayn Rand – “You can avoid reality but you can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”
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