The Internet of What?

Having just been to the Internet Of Things (IOT) Expo, I wanted to share my understanding and thoughts on where I think this is going. IOT is how I remember the IPAD when it was launched. Everyone had to have one but with no idea why. There are board meetings happening now with senior directors making clear that they need their firms to be IOT ready, without understanding what the advantages will be.

Essentially IOT is the ability to speak to things over the internet, to track the location of a shipment, to get the environmental statistics from a building and to be able to control utilities, like a light bulb switching on or off with an app from our phones or by using our voice.  Very soon all our home appliances will be addressable and controllable. Nest and Hive have made huge tracks in moving this forward in the home. At the same time, building control and vehicle tracking has been growing.

Excitement in the IOT world now is around using new wireless networks talking to units over a vast distance. So one or two masts could cover a city. Also key to this is that technology is being implemented so that the units being controlled are extremely light on power, using a battery that could last for upwards of 10 years. For example, placement of sensors in parking spaces so that live information on availability can be feed to a central database and an app could then be updated to show where parking spaces are available. Previously, this would have needed cabling and power. Now a battery operated unit can be put in place. The fly in the ointment on this is that there are competing standards on radio and chips. Main players are LoraWAN and NB-IOT. My money is on NB-IOT to emerge as the one that will stick. The others may well go the way of the Betamax.

In terms of Wi-Fi, the challenge is that we will be introducing many IOT items to our networks over the coming years and it needs to be easy for these to be added to Wi-Fi. Auto-enrolment is not a new concept but it doesn’t work very well. New methods and standards will come out. This is great news as it will bring with it easier enrolment for our phones and computers. IOT will be revolutionary. It just doesn’t know how and to what extent yet.

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