Internet of Things – Online guide to the Internet of Things (IoT)

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Where does ‘it’ come from, how is IoT used in practice, what are the key IoT benefits and challenges, and what can we expect in the future across several vertical markets and from various angles and IoT use cases? From the Consumer Internet of Things to the Industrial Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything.

The Internet of Things – a reality after more than 2 decades

Among the many phenomena and related technologies that show exponential growth in recent years and (will) result in digital transformation (initiatives) is the Internet of Things or IoT.

Internet of Things guide - a comprehensive IoT overview by i-SCOOP

It has taken over two decades for the ‘concept’ of the Internet of Things (IoT) to become a reality that is impacting and will impact many areas of business and society. Yet, several more years are needed before the IoT is a full-blown daily reality in all possible areas, for numerous reasons, such as IoT security challenges, which we cover in this IoT guide. The Internet of Things is still in its early days, despite massive attention for it.

The Internet of Things is emerging as the third wave in the development of the Internet.

Driven by new connectivity solutions and the cloud, as well as other “third platform” technologies, without which the Internet of Things cannot exist, such as (big data) analytics, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, to name a few, the number of IoT applications and the adoption of the Internet of Things is accelerating fast, with several industries and sectors taking the lead, while others are testing of considering potential IoT deployments. The industrial sector is by far the earliest mover in IoT.

Moreover, viable Internet of Things use cases, various enablers, connected devices and a range of technologies, which are designed to leverage IoT-generated data fast, are increasing, so it’s clear that the Internet of Things is growing rapidly and has found fertile ground to be leveraged in valuable ways. Initially this is, as said, mainly the case in an Industrial Internet of Things context, but expect the Consumer Internet of Things to grow fast soon.

You can browse through this Internet of Things guide using the Table of Contents below. In various sections links are added to learn more about specific topics.

Table of Contents

What is the Internet of Things? Definitions

There are many definitions of the Internet of Things and there is no universal one. It just depends on how you look at it: the application perspective, the technological perspective, the industry context, the benefits, etc.

The Internet of Things describes a range of applications, protocols, standards, architectures and data acquisition and analysis technologies whereby devices and items (appliances, clothes, animals,….) which are equipped with sensors, specifically designed software and /or other digital and electronical systems, are connected to the Internet and/or other networks via a unique IP address or URI, with a societal, industrial, business and/or human purpose in mind. As you can read below, data and how they are acquired, analyzed and combined into information value chains and benefits are key in it. In fact, the true value of the Internet of Things lies in the ways it enables to leverage entirely new sources and types of data for entirely new business models, insights, forms of engagement, ways of living and societal improvements.

The Internet of Things redefined - from connecting devices to creating value
The Internet of Things redefined – from connecting devices to creating value

The Internet of Things is an umbrella term and often a distinction is made between the Consumer Internet of Things (CIoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). We cover both on this page as they are still often used. However, both CIoT and IIoT cover many use cases and applications as well and thus are umbrella terms too. Furthermore, there are overlaps between both.

We see the Internet of Things more from an Internet of Everything perspective, which is again part of a broader context. What this means is explained further below.

The Internet of Things is not a thing. Data which is acquired, submitted, processed or sent to devices, in most cases travels across the Internet, fixed lines, across cloud ecosystems or via (tailored) wireless connectivity technologies which are developed for specific applications of IoT (e.g. wireless technologies for the IIoT).

55% of organizations see IoT as strategic to their business as a means to compete more effectively (IDC, 2016)

Bridging digital, physical and human spheres through networks, connected processes and data, turned into knowledge and action, is an essential aspect in this equation. In recent years the focus in IoT has shifted from the pure aspect of connecting devices and gathering data to this interconnection of devices, data, business goals, people and processes, certainly in IIoT.

What is the Internet of Things? 7 characteristics

The Internet of Things can be defined by the various characteristics in the broader context.

There are 7 crucial IoT characteristics:
  1. Connectivity. This doesn’t need much further explanation. Devices, sensors, they need to be connected: to an item, to eachother, to a process and to ‘the Internet’ or another network.
  2. Things. Anything that can be tagged or connected as such as it’s designed to be connected. From sensors and household appliances to tagged livestock. Devices can contain sensors or sensing materials can be attached to devices and items.
  3. Data. Data is the glue of the Internet of Things, the first step towards action and intelligence.
  4. Communication. Devices get connected so they can communicate data and this data can be analyzed.
  5. Intelligence. The aspect of intelligence as in the sensing capabilities in IoT devices and the intelligence gathered from data analytics (also artificial intelligence).
  6. Action. The consequence of intelligence. This can be manual action, action based upon debates regarding phenomena (for instance in climate change decisions) and automation, often the most important piece.
  7. Ecosystem. The place of the Internet of Things from a perspective of other technologies, communities, goals and the picture in which IoT fits. The Internet of Everything dimension.
Defining the Internet of Things using 7 characteristics
Defining the Internet of Things using 7 characteristics

As the Internet of Things is an umbrella term and as such has no meaning since data and devices are inherently dumb and derive their meaning from the purpose, context and integration with processes, people and information systems for which they are designed, some prefer to use other terms.

This is why some organizations and individuals, for instance, rather talk about the Internet of Everything (as we do, see below), while others opt to drop the term IoT alltogether and mention it in terms of specific use cases and contexts such as smart cities, smart metering, smart wearables, Industrial Internet or connected homes, all of course with their own meaning and, again, with more subdivisions.

Working towards a universal IoT definition

The Internet of Things fits in – and requires – a context of integration, hyper-connectedness, digital transformation and certainly actionable data and information so it’s more than that big connected ‘thing’ we all talk about it.

Yet, as mentioned it’s important to speak the same language. That’s also what the people at the IEEE think. This association (IEEE stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), which was founded in 1963 is known for its exhaustive work in regards with standards in technologies.

Via a special IoT page on the website of the IEEE where members can join in contributing to the, quote, “ever-changing definition of IoT” you can download the latest version (PDF, no registration) of “Towards a Definition of the Internet of Things”, as revised and published on May 27th 2015.

It is 86 (!) pages long. Of course it doesn’t just strictly cover a definition of the IoT, it provides a huge overview of considerations, evolutions, specifications and various aspects in regards with the IoT ecosystem and the technological and social aspects of the Internet of Things as depicted below. It even dives deep into questions such as what are ‘things’ in an IoT ecosystem view.

Technological and social aspects related to IoT - source Towards a definition of the Internet of Things IoT - IEEE - PDF opens
Technological and social aspects related to IoT – source Towards a definition of the Internet of Things IoT – IEEE – PDF opens
Internet of Things definitions

The origin of the Internet of Things: how it all started

As said in the introduction, the idea of the Internet of Things goes back quite some time.

We can even go back a very long time but will begin at the end of the previous Millenium where RFID has been a key development towards the Internet of Things and the term Internet of Things has been coined in an RFID context (and NFC), whereby we used RFID to track items in various operations such as supply chain management and logistics.

However, the roots and origin of the Internet of Things go beyond just RFID. Think about machine-to-machine (M2M) networks. Or think about ATMs (automated teller machine or cash machines), which are connected to interbank networks, just as the point of sales terminals where you pay with your ATM cards. M2M solutions for ATMs have existed for a long time, just as RFID. These earlier forms of networks, connected devices and data are where the Internet of Things comes from. Yet, it’s not the Internet of Things.

The role and impact of RFID

In the nineties, technologies such as RFID, sensors and a few wireless innovations led to several applications in the connecting of devices and “things”.

Most real-life implementations of RFID in those days happened in logistics, warehouses and the supply chain in general. However, there were many challenges and hurdles to overcome, as we covered end 1999 in a white paper for a Belgian RFID specialist who targeted the logistics industry (mainly warehousing and industrial logistics as RFID was still expensive).

An example of an RFID application - electronic toll collection - Wikipedia by user Gary D
An example of an RFID application – electronic toll collection – Wikipedia by user Gary D

Gradually, the use of RFID (and along with it, several NFC or “near field communication”, wireless technologies), became popular in areas beyond logistics and supply chain management: from public transport, identification (from pets to people), electronic toll collection (see image), access control and authentication, traffic monitoring, retail to – back then – innovative forms of outdoor advertising. That growing usage was, among others, driven by the decreasing cost of RFID tags, increasing standardization and NFC.

From RFID to the Internet of Things

Although RFID strictly speaking has nothing to do with the Internet of Things, the possibility of tagging, tracking, connecting and “reading” and analyzing data from objects went hand in hand with what would become known as the Internet of Things around the beginning of this Millenium.

It was obvious that the connection of the types of “things” and applications – as we saw them in RFID (and in M2M and more) – with the Internet would change a lot. It might surprise you but the concepts of connected refrigerators, telling you that you need to buy milk, the concept of what is now known as smart cities and the vision of an immersive shopping experience (without bar code scanning and leveraging smart real-time information obtained via connected devices and goods) go back since before the term Internet of Things even existed.

Again, it took a long time. Furthermore, we shouldn’t reduce the Internet of Things to just these popular and widely known concepts, even if consumer-related attention for the IoT without a doubt has led to the grown attention for it as you’ll read further.

The Internet of Things - infographic The Connectivist based on Cisco data - click for full image
The Internet of Things – infographic The Connectivist based on Cisco dataclick for full image

How the Internet of Things was coined in a context of RFID

According to the large majority of sources, the term Internet of Things was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, the co-founder of the MIT’s Auto-ID Center where a standard was developed for RFID, primarily from a retail perspective.

Kevin Ashton - who reportedly coined the term Internet of Things - in 2015
Kevin Ashton – who reportedly coined the term Internet of Things – in 2015 – By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44613882

RFID existed years before talked about the Internet of Things as a system, connecting the physical world and the Internet via omni-present sensors. It also already existed when he co-founded the Auto-ID Center (now called the Auto-ID labs) at MIT.

Ashton, who was a marketer at P&G, wanted to solve a challenge he had seen before as Wired reports: empty shelves for a specific product. When shelves are empty, obviously no one can buy what’s supposed to be there. It’s a typical problem of logistics and supply chain. Ashton found the solution in RFID tags, which were still far too expensive to be able to put them on each product. When the MIT Auto-ID Center was launched, funded by the major global retail brands who understood the challenge and obvious benefits of a solution, he was ‘loaned’ by P&G and became the executive director at that Center as Wired explains.

The rest is a standard system, solving miniaturization challenges, lowering RFID tags prices and…history.

The exponential growth of the Internet of Things

One thing we can agree on is that the Internet of Things still has a long way to go and that the growth of connected devices or “intelligent things” will indeed continue to rise exponentially over the coming years, as multiple challenges continue to get solved.

In that sense it is safe to say that, despite the fact that we’ve been talking about the Internet of Things for a long time and the fact that IoT in many industries is a reality, we are still in the early years. Although it is expected that, as a term and concept, the Internet of Things will dissapear and just become part of a new normal, we are far from there. Note, however, that in a business context it’s best to focus on goals and use cases when trying to get projects accepted and done than to speak about the IoT.

With the expnonential growth, enabled by what Gartner would call a “nexus of forces”, comes growth in many other areas such as traffic, storage, processing capacity, data volumes, network capabilities, you name it.

The Internet of Things exists in many industries, applications and contexts. Some projects are still in the pilot stage while others form the backbone of important processes, operations and innovations. In other words: the Internet of Things is certainly here but the degree in which it is changing the ways we live, work and conduct business depends on the context.

Predictions on the number of connected devices

The exact predictions regarding the size and evolution of the IoT lanscape tend to focus on the number of devices, appliances and other ‘things’ that are connected and the staggering growth of this volume of IP-enabled IoT devices, as well as the data they generate, with mind-blowing numbers for many years to come.

It makes it look as if the Internet of Things is still nowhere. Make no mistake though: it is already bigger than many believe and used in far more applications than those which are typically mentioned in mainstream media.

At the same time it is true that the increase of connected devices is staggering and accelerating. As we write this, approximately each single hour a million new connections are made and there are about 5 to 6 billion different items connected to the Internet (last update: September 2016). By 2020, Cisco expects there will be 20 billion devices in the IoT. Estimations for 2030 go up to a whopping 50 billion devices.

Some predictions are even more bullish, stating that by 2025 there will be up to 100 billion devices and a few even think that it will be even higher.

The truth is that we will have to wait and see and that by the time we have written about recent predictions, new ones are already published. When we first wrote this overview Gartner estimated that by 2020 we would live in a world with over 26 billion connected devices. As the image below indicates Cisco back then predicted that 37 billion intelligent things would be connected to the Internet by 2020 (earlier the company talked about 50 billion) and some even went over 200 billion.

According to Cisco more than 99 percent of things in the physical world are not connected to the Internet yet – read the full article
According to Cisco more than 99 percent of things in the physical world are not connected to the Internet yet – read the full article

A variety of sources and predictions in context

Regardless of the exact numbers, one thing is clear: there is a LOT that can still be connected and it’s safe to assume we’ll probably reach the lower numbers of connected devices (20-30 billion) by 2020.

The variety of sources and pace at which data about the expected number of connected devices is released is so big that we plan a section with forecasts from several sources, nicely dated, so you can stay up-to-date.

There are several reasons why these predictions differ so much. Among them are certainly various uncertainties and challenges regarding the Internet of Things which are further fuelled by impactful events regarding among others security and privacy. And then there is the fact that the Internet of Things obviously also gets hyped by those who have an interest in doing so. This doesn’t mean that the Internet of Things is a hype as such (it has been at the beginning of this Millennium). However, the realities, data and even definitions regarding IoT are so vast that all predictions are really merely attempts, often fitting in a hypish perspective.

IoT: looking beyond the hype of data and predictions

Impact, data and outcomes before devices

Moreover, it’s not that much the growth of connected devices which matters but how they are used in the broader context of the Internet of Things whereby the intersection of connected and IP-enabled devices, big data (analytics), people, processes and purposeful projects affect several industries.

Also the data aspect is critical (again with mind-blowing forecasts) and how all this (big) data is analyzed, leveraged and turned into actions or actionable intelligence that creates enhanced customer experience, increased productivity, better processes, societal improvements, innovative models and all possible other benefits and outcomes. The impact of the IoT from a sheer data volume and digital universe perspective is amazing.

The number of IoT devices in the overall connected devices landscape

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report 2016, there will be approximately 28 billion connected devices by 2021. The report expects the Internet of Things to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices with 16 billion connected devices being IoT devices (of the the forecasted total of 28 billion, which include for instance smartphones as we mentioned in our article on mobile and mobility.

IoT devices are about to to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices - source Ericsson Mobility Report 2016
IoT devices are about to to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices – source Ericsson Mobility Report 2016

Reasons for the exponential growth of the Internet of Things

So, why this exponential growth of the Internet of Things and, admittedly, equally exponential growth of the attention for it, sometimes feeling like a hype?

Well, first of all IoT today is effectively hyped (yet, at the same time very real). Gartner’s latest Hype cycle for emerging technologies shows that the Internet of Things is at the peak of inflated expectations (while NFC is reaching the slope of enlightenment).

There are numerous reasons for the growing attention for the Internet of Things. While you will often will read about the decreasing costs of storage, processing and material or the third platform with the cloud, big data, smart (mobile) technologies/devices, etc. there certainly is also a societal/people dimension with a strong consumer element.

The Internet of Things and NFC in Gartners Hype Cycle for emerging technologies
The Internet of Things and NFC in Gartners Hype Cycle for emerging technologies

The flavors of IoT: the Industrial Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything, the Consumer Internet of Things, so many terms that it becomes confusing.

The main value and applications are found in the so-called Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT. In all honesty one of the main reasons why we started talking about the Industrial Internet of Things is to distinguish it from the more popular view on the Internet of Things as it has becoming increasingly used in recent years: that of the consumer Internet of Things or consumer electronics applications such as wearables in a connected context or smart home applications.

Industrial Internet of Things definition

The Industrial Internet of Things is defined by the Industrial Internet Consortium as ‘machines, computers and people enabling intelligent industrial operations using advanced data analytics for transformational business outcomes” as you can also see in the infographic below.

Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things technology ecosystem
Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things technology ecosystem (copyright Zapp2Photo)

What industries are covered? Some people mainly look at ‘heavy’ industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, transportation. Others also add ‘less heavy’ smart city or smart agriculture applications into account. Sometimes there is a bit a thin line because of course you can also have very simple applications in smart cities.

What is crucial in the Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT is the connection between IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology).

For now, IIoT is the most important segment in IoT, much more than consumer applications, for instance.

IIoT use cases, benefits and challenges

The Industrial Internet of Things is related with Industry 4.0: all IoT applications in Industry 4.0 are forms of IIoT but not all IIoT use cases are about the industries which are categorized as Industry 4.0.

Typical use cases of the Industrial Internet of Things include smart lightning and smart traffic solutions in smart cities, intelligent machine applications, industrial control applications, factory floor use cases, condition monitoring, use cases in agriculture, smart grid applications and oil refinery applications.

So, even if the term is not so much an umbrella term as the Internet of Things is, it still covers many potential applications and use cases.

A lot of organizations are considering IIoT applications and many have already started, certainly in early moving markets such as manufacturing or oil and gas. But others are still waiting or uncertain.

According to research from IDG in 2016, 70 percent of organizations are still in the “consideration”, “early discussions” or “planning phase” as the infographic below indicates.

And this despite the many opportunities, among others in regards with business continuity, efficiency, cost reductions etc.

But there are also many challenges, not in the least in regards with industrial data as you can also see in the infographic and the page of Visual Capitalist, who made it.

The Industrial Internet of Things - IIoT barriers and opportunities according to Visual Capitalist
The Industrial Internet of Things – IIoT barriers and opportunities according to Visual Capitalist

The opportunities and difference of IIoT

It’s important to know that the Industrial Internet of Things is not just about saving costs and optimizing efficiency though. Companies also have the possibility to realize important transformations and can find new opportunities thanks to IIoT.

Those who can overcome the challenges, understand the benefits beyond the obvious and are able to deal with the industrial data challenge have golden opportunities to be innovative, create competitive benefits and even entirely new business models in Industry 4.0.

Below is a presentation that explains the Industrial Internet of Things and also how the IIoT is different than other Internet of Things applications, for instance in the consumer space.

The Industrial Internet of Things

The flavors of IoT: the Consumer Internet of Things

Give or take 5 years ago, consumers rarely saw what the Internet of Things would mean to their private lives. Today, they increasingly do: not just because they are are interested in technology but mainly because a range of new applications and IoT-enabled devices has hit the market.

These devices and their possibilities are getting major attention on virtually every news outlet and website that covers technology. Wearables and smart watches, connected and smart home applications (with Google’s Nest being a popular one but certainly not the first): there are ample of you know the examples.

Nest 3rd Gen thermostat – source
Nest 3rd Gen thermostat – source

Although it is said that there is some technology fatigue appearing, the combination of applications in a consumer context and of technology fascination undoubtedly plays a role in the growing attention for the Internet of Things. That consumer fascination aspect comes on top of all the real-life possibilities as they start getting implemented and the contextual and technological realities, making the Internet of Things one of those many pervasive technological umbrella terms. Obviously, the Consumer Internet of Things market is not just driven bynew technology fascination: their manufacturers push the market heavily as adoption means news business possibilities with a key role for data.

The Consumer Internet of Things and consumer electronics

With the Consumer Internet of Things we are strictly in a consumer electronics reality.

47% of consumers are concerned about privacy and security issues regarding IoT

While some of the applications in this space already are popular (fitness and personal health, for instance), the real growth still needs to come.

Below are some IoT consumer electronics challenges to tackle first:

  • Smarter devices. Consumers are waiting for smarter generations of wearables and IoT products, which are able to fulfil more functions without being too dependent from smartphones, as is the case with many of such devices today (think the first generations of smartwatches, which need a smartphone).
  • Security. Consumers don’t trust the Internet of Things yet, further strengthened by breaches and the coverage of these breaches. Moreover, it’s not just about the security of the devices but also about, among others, the security of low data communication protocols (and IoT operating systems). An example: home automation standard Zigbee was proven easy to crack in November 2016.
  • Data and privacy. On top of security concerns, there are also concerns regarding data usage and privacy. The lack of trust in regards with data, privacy and security was already an issue before these breaches as we cover in our overview of the consumer electronics market evolutions.
  • A “compelling reason to buy”. The current devices which are categorized as Consumer Internet of Things appliances are still relatively expensive, “dumb” and hard to use. They also often lack a unique benefit that makes consumers massively buy them.

The Consumer Internet of Things market: focus on experiences and benefits

Whereas the focus of the Industrial Internet of Things is more on the benefits of applications, the Consumer Internet of Things is more about new and immersive customer-centric experiences.

It is expected that the market will really start picking up as of end 2017 or 2018, when the Consumer Internet of Things will grow rapidly across several types of devices and applications, once manufacturers are able to meet the various challenges.

As mentioned, the Consumer Internet of Things typically is about smart wearables and smart home appliances but also about smart televisions, drones for consumer applications and a broad range of gadgets with IoT connectivity.

It’s important to note that de facto the Consumer Internet of Things overlaps with the use of the IoT across several industries.

On top of examples such as smart meters, as explained above, it is clear that the CiOT offers manufacturers of devices and applications important opportunities to leverage data to build new revenue streams and even new partnerships and ecosystems to leverage this data in various ways. Data privacy and security will remain a challenge for several years to come but at the same time new generations of devices with clear benefits and a focus on the consumer experience will boost the market.

RFID in the lives of consumers

RFID has come a long way. Even if you don’t know what it means, you “use” it.

Examples? Electronic door locks, many modern credit cards, identification cards with RFID, the list is long.

RFID is even used so much that end 2014, security firm Norton and Betabrand designer Steven B. Wheeler joined forces to create the world’s first RFID (and NFC) blocking jeans to avoid theft of data.

Consumer eletronics forecast

The Internet of Everything

The Internet of Everything is a term that was coined by Cisco but is also used by other companies like Intel.

The Internet of Things focuses too much on the things and, as mentioned, is also very broadly used. It’s why some started distinguishing between the just mentioned Consumer Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet of Things.

Cisco and other prefer to use the term Internet of Everything, partially because of that umbrella term issue, partially because of the focus on things and partially to provide context to their views and offerings. But it’s not just marketing. The Internet of Everything or IoE depicts crucial aspects of IoT, namely people, data, things and processes. It’s this mix that matters. Moreover, the classic illustration of the Internet of Everything also made clear what, for instance, machine to machine or M2M is all about.

We’ve based ourselves on that classic depiction and added the dimensions of value and data analysis.

Internet of Everything in context - based upon Cisco
Internet of Everything in context – based upon Cisco

Industries and sectors driving the Internet of Things

Previously we mentioned how the Internet of Things today already is a reality in several industries, more so than in consumer applications. Below are some typical examples.

From the sheer perspective of (number of) devices, IoT is driven by consumer devices. According to a 2015 report by IC Insights (via Datamotion), a research company specializing in the semiconductor market, the increasing popularity of wearable devices and IoT devices is boosting sensor shipments.

However, behind this popularity and the growth of IoT, are several industries with some clearly taking the lead.

“Smart” is the word of the day in the service economy in which most organizations operate and in most IIoT applications.

Smart is a key concept in the evolution of the Internet of Things – from smart cities to smart social care but also empowered by smart devices and intelligent networks – picture J-P De Clerck – BT Benelux showcase 2014
Smart is a key concept in the evolution of the Internet of Things – from smart cities to smart social care but also empowered by smart devices and intelligent networks – picture J-P De Clerck – BT Benelux showcase 2014

The Internet of Things in manufacturing

Given the “origins” of the Internet of Things (remember RFID) and the most typical (early) use cases, manufacturing (for now) is still taking the lead.

Global manufacturers will invest $70 billion on IoT solutions in 2020 (BI Intelligence)

In April 2015, Gartner analyst Jim Tully said that there were 307 million installed units at the time of the Q&A in the manufacturing industry where systems with sensors have always been embedded into manufacturing and the automation processes. In a May 2015 forecast on the worldwide growth of the Internet of Things market (poised to grow 19% in 2015) IDC forecasted that the IoT market in manufacturing operations will reach $98.8 billion in 2018. Drivers: efficiency optimization and “linking islands of automation”.

According to a February 2015 report by PwC, the majority of US manufacturers has deployed devices to collect, analyze/measure and act upon data. The infographic which came with the report, mentioned data from a survey conducted in February 2014. According to that survey 34.6 percent of respondents had already implemented devices and sensors to gather this data and another 9.6 percent was about to implement IoT devices within a year. Only 24 percent of all respondents from the US manufacturing industry said they had no plans to implement devices to collect, analyze and act upon data.

66 percent of early-movers in manufacturing say IoT is now critical to competitive advange (Verizon, source see below)

US manufacturers were using Internet of Things Technology in the manufacturing plant (32 percent), followed by the warehouse, the extended supply chain and the customer environment.

In March 2016, BI Intelligence estimated that global manufacturers will invest $70 billion on IoT solutions in 2020 (in 2015 they invested $29 billion). Business Insider also mentions research from TATA Consultancy, indicating an average increase in revenues by 28.5 percent between 2013 and 2014 for manufacturers who have Internet of Things solutions.

IoT in manufacturing: use cases

Internet of Things use cases in manufacturing cover a broad range of applications, including: asset tracking, material tracking, connected factory applications, staff safety, health monitoring (real-time), smart ventilation and indoor air quality management, smart environmental factor measurement, access control (security), smart measurement of presence/levels of liquids, gases, radiation and dangerous materials (depending on the type of operation), asset protection, risk measurement and much more.

The graphic from Verizon’s “State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016“, below shows some data and benefits across several use cases.

Internet of Things in manufacturing - source Verizon 2016
Internet of Things in manufacturing – source Verizon 2016

The Internet of Things in retail

Retail is moving up fast, both in operations and customer-facing circumstances as Tully says.

In its mentioned forecast on the worldwide growth of the Internet of Things market, IDC also emphasized retail in an ongoing effort to digitize the consumer experience. Digital signage in retail outlets is in fact the big driver in 2015, IDC found. Also remember how the term Internet of Things was first mentioned in a context of supply chain management in retail and consumer goods environment. It is mainly in the optimization of processes and of logistics that the IoT offers immediate benefits to retailers. However, obviously the customer-facing and inventory-related aspects matter a lot too.

The use of IoT in retail, among others, changes customer experience, leads to better customer insights, enables new collaborations and business models and further blurs the line between digital and physical in an in-store context.

Retailers are working with IoT for several innovative and immersive approaches, ranging from virtual closets and self-checkouts to smart shelves (inventory accuracy) and connected vending machines. As data analysis in such real-time environments needs to happen fast, fog computing approaches are being closely looked at here.

More about IoT in retail

The Internet of Things in utilities and energy

Facing huge challenges and transformations for several reasons, utility firms have 299 million units installed according to Gartner’s Tully. On top of utilities in the traditional sense there is also a lot happening in oil and gas and in energy.

Among the many typical use cases in utility firms: smart meters to improve efficiency in energy, from a household perspective (savings, better monitoring etc.) and a utility company perspective (billing, better processes and of course also dealing with natural resources in a more efficient way as they are not endless) and smart grids (which is about more than the Internet of Things).

The Internet of Things in automotive

Connected cars and all the other evolutions in the automotive industry are driving the IoT market as well.

Again, according to the same research by IDC, connected vehicles is the hottest US market in the overall Internet of Things picture. The connected car is one of those typical examples where the Consumer Internet of Things and Industrial Internet of Things overlap.

The Internet of Things in other sectors

Other industries include healthcare, transportation (where “smart devices” and sensors have existed for quite some time), logistics, government and public service agencies, agriculture and more.

Add to that the consumer context of IoT and you know why it is such a hot topic. Stay tuned for more detailed overviews per industry with various examples of applications in practice and with various use cases per sector.

The Internet of Things: security challenges

The Internet of Things still is a security nightmare. Both in consumer applications and industrial applications, there are many questions that need to be solved.

In fact, when Accenture looked at the slowing down of the consumer electronics market at the occasion of the Consumer Electronics Show 2016, the company observed that in order to bridge the gap between the current decreasing growth of the consumer electronics market and the next stage of increasing growth, which is expected to be driven by consumer applications in the IoT space and wearables, vendors need to address these security challenges.

The IoT Security Dilemma

Gartner estimates that more than 20% of enterprise security attacks will involve IoT connections by 2020, and threat growth is expected to outstrip security spending (source: Motley Fool SlideShare).

As said, the many security challenges regarding the Internet of Things are not just in the consumer electronics space. In business applications, the security challenges of a hyper-connected Internet of Things reality are at least as high, not to mention the impact on IT infrastructure and data capabilities.

In the IoT sensors communicate with each other and through gateways, connected to an Internet of Things platform, the various applications of the company are fed and triggered. Obviously such a platform needs to be highly secure as do the communications between sensors, gateways and the platform.

In a SlideShare presentation The Motley Fool summarizes some aspects of the Internet of Things Security Dilemma.

They mainly touch upon the impact on networks and information, the protection and funneling of data, the lack of standardization across networks and application programming interfaces (APIs) that inevitably come when devices and software interact and are interconnected and, last but not least, the disconnect between de facto expected security breaches in IoT and the efforts that businesses are doing to tackle with these security challenges.

More in the IoT Security Dilemma presentation below.

Cybercrime meets the Internet of Things

Connected devices and the internet of Things are increasingly used for large scale attacks.

An Internet of Things business plan must encompass security, from start to finish and beyond

Several DDoS attacks have been reported throughout 2016, including the up to 620 Gbps DDoS attack which made the website of well-known security journalist Bryan Krebs go down end September 2016. The attack received a lot of attention, also because it was related with other issues such as free speech (Krebs was attacked by hackers after exposing a network of hackers for hire, the attack was so intensive that Akamai had to stop protecting Kreb’s website against DDoS attacks and Google put the site in its Project Shield).

Fears are high that soon such attacks and even more intensive ones will become the norm. And it’s not just about DDoS attacks. Ransomware is also moving to the Internet of Things and security experts warn for cascade effects of exploited vulnerabilities in the connected reality which the IoT is. On top of the security challenges, compliance and data privacy also need to be tackled.

Among the many reasons why the IoT can be exploited so easily in several cases are:

  • Vulnerabilities in the devices.
  • Difficult or non-existing procedures to patch IoT devices.
  • A lack of awareness in and support from the boardroom.
  • Too much focus on saving costs in IoT projects and not investing in essential security controls.
  • Not enough attention for security overall and for the ‘perimeter of everything’ which is simply needed in the Internet of Everything.
Internet of Things and security

IoT: technology, connectivity, cloud and fog computing

As so much data is created and increasingly will be created with the Internet of Things, the decentralized ways in which these data are generated need different aproaches, among others in the ways they are transported, processed and analyzed, driving (automated) actions.

One of these approaches is fog computing, a system-level architecture that extends the computing, network and storage capability of the cloud to the edge of the IoT network. This is especially important when a large geographical area is involved, when data needs to be processed extremely fast and data is collected at the extreme edge as Cisco calls it, for instance on oil rigs or in ships.

Fog computing visually explained - source Cisco blog post announcing the launch of the OpenFog Consortium
Fog computing visually explained – source Cisco blog post announcing the launch of the OpenFog Consortium

Fog computing is not the only technological aspect to deal with the reality regarding data, bandwidth, processing and analysis requirements of IoT projects. There are also numerous technologies that are involved, depending on the scope and context of the application, ranging from fixed lines, cellular technologies and home automation standards to satellite connections and machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies in the context of, among others, Low-Power Wide Area Networks or LPWAN.

With the huge challenges and opportunities on the unstructured data front in mind, it’s key to look at the evolutions of these technologies and the evolutions in fog computing.

IoT network technologies and fog computing

Internet of Things future forecasts: 2017 and beyond

What can we expect regarding the Internet of Things in organizations, society and our daily lives in 2017 and beyond?

First and foremost that the Internet of Things, despite several challenges, will be a key pillar of the digital transformation economy.

The hyper-connected and information-driven aspects of digital transformation technologies come together in a connected world where processes, people, innovation, optimization and new data sources, meet in the creation of value.

In a series of articles we look at several Internet of Things future predictions, spiced with data from analysts such as IDC, Forrester, Gartner and many others.

Internet of Things future forecasts 2017 and beyond

About the Internet of Things future outlook 2017 (and beyond) predictions

As mentioned earlier, predicting the future of the Internet of Things often is about volume: the number of devices, the data volumes and the number of connections.

These predictions vary a lot and change constantly, so it’s important to put them in perspective as there are parameters to take into account when trying to make sense of them as you can read here.

While they certainly are interesting to get a grasp of what’s coming, we mainly focus on the impact of the IoT in a context of the digital transformation economy, IT evolutions, challenges, business implications and our lives in this Internet of Things future forecasts series.

The topics in our Internet of Things future forecasts

You might have noted that we even didn’t mention connected devices or things the introduction of this forecast series.

Although they obviously are an inherent part of the Internet of Things, it’s the data and context in which it is used that matters: use cases and benefits from things that can transmit all sorts of data and perform actions, depending on the use case and desired benefit.

The topics in this series are a mix of evolutions and forecasts regarding the main use cases that will lead the coming years, industry overviews, security aspects, data evolutions, IoT connectivity forecasts, business predictions and IT implications across a number of domains.

Internet of Things future forecasts: focus on IoT security

We kick off our series of Internet of Things forecasts with security. How else could we? Stay tuned as more forecasts are added.

Some takeaways:

  • Internet of Things future securityContinued breaches as the industry players step up the security pace to become trusted partners.
  • More sophisticated threats and a more sophisticated usage of devices that are out there already and need an urgent solution.
  • A potential delay in the Consumer Internet of Things picking up.
  • Changes in the ecosystems used to deploy IoT projects.
  • An increasing choice for the most secure connectivity options, depending on the use case.
  • Different ways of handling data and on securing the endpoints where data is generated.
IoT future forecasts: focus on IoT security

The IoT made tangible: video

To make the ways the Internet of Things works and can be used across various areas of business and society here is a video example.

Among the many videos and presentations explaining the IoT is a video from the IBM Think Academy that explains it in a visual way with a practical example.

The Internet of Things is changing much about the world we live in. By way of example, the video mentions the way we drive (think about the autonomous or driverless car but also about smart parking systems and how the IoT can help in solving traffic issues or car diagnostics), the way we purchase (retail is one of the industries where the IoT is being looked at intensively) and how we get/pay energy (smart meters, for instance).

The IBM Think Academy YouTube channel video focuses a lot on how embedded sensors and chips send data that can be used for numerous reasons and then explains various applications where this data can be used. That’s not a surprise as the Internet of Things can’t be separated from big data (analytics) and artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, domains where IBM is highly involved in.

That is also what the Internet of Things is essentially about: how data is used from chips and sensors to drive various business processes, automate them, enable new applications and service customers in entirely new ways, to name a few.

The video gives the example of a car that alerts its driver a ‘check engine’ is needed and then shows how this data is leveraged in various scenarios, making the Internet of Things very tangible in case you are relatively new to what the IoT means and can mean in practice.

Hungry for more? The Think Academy channel has some other nice videos on the IoT and other technologies, explained in a simple and hands-on way.

The Internet of Things in an infographic

Below is an infographic by Goldman Sachs on the Internet of Things which pretty well summarizes several of its aspects and evolutions.

The Internet of Things - what is it and where does it go - infographic by Goldman Sachs
The Internet of Things – what is it and where does it go – infographic by Goldman Sachs

 

 

Top image: Shutterstock – Copyright: jamesteohart – All other images are the property of their respective mentioned owners.

Top picture Internet of Things future forecast: purchased on Shutterstock. Copyright: beeboys The pictures per subtopic: copyright mentions on their respective pages.