A World of ‘Things’
When I was a kid, a specific reference to “things” had but one meaning – the twin brothers, Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Suess’ Cat in the Hat. Today, ‘things’ can be any number of things. The ambiguity of its meaning adopts an even more esoteric understanding when used in conjunction with the vastness of the internet.
In the minds of many, the Internet of Things (IoT) is as mysterious as it is broad. However, when you remove all the ‘buzz’ of the cloud and consider it from a utilitarian perspective, IoT is little more than a tool. It establishes connectivity between devices, allowing them to communicate interactively driving efficiencies in time, cost and convenience, while laying the foundation for the emergence of new capabilities, new levels of understanding and the proliferation of next-generation ideas. To understand the real value of this connectivity, we first need to know how the technology developed.
Phase One: The Dawn of the Internet
Although technically, the internet has been around since the 1960s, commercial/consumer use didn’t gain momentum until the 1990s, which at the time, reflected an infrastructure of independent workstations with limited (LAN) connectivity. Then came the great ‘HTTP disruption’ globally connecting computers to computers in what we now know as the internet.
Phase Two: Monetizing Connectivity
The physical connection was of little interest to most, as the idea of network cards and routers was reserved for only the ‘nerdiest’ of nerds. The value was on the websites that the technology enabled. For the ambitious and entrepreneurial, the value was clear. The internet leveraged the access to knowledge, news and the ability to consumerize at a scale never before seen.
24/7/365 access and limitless streams of content created opportunities for a new, global marketplace and a range of models to monetize its use. The most obvious was a direct fee for access (AOL, CompuServe, etc.). The problem was people refusing to pay for content when they could find free alternatives. Another idea was the advertising model that made content free to viewers but charged for advertisers. While entirely functional and widely used, the interactive capabilities of the internet made static advertising less than optimal as it failed to exploit the capabilities of the new medium.
Phase Three: The Internet of ‘Us’
Social networks introduced society to peer-to-peer interactions, providing users with a free platform that encouraged personalized content without the need for ‘middlemen’ to enable this new form of individual expression and one-to-one-to-many connectivity.
The ‘Eureka’ Moment
Social networking took the public by storm, and if you were among the fortunate who saw the value and invested in these social network businesses, you became exceedingly rich overnight. Equipped with big data capabilities, these companies had front-row access to what their billions of subscribers were doing, sharing, liking, etc. Understanding human behaviors with the ability to organize and segregate into ‘personas’ is, for sellers, invaluable and the most important kind of information a business can have. Social networking companies in possession of user-provided data can now offer advertisers data in levels of granularity previously unavailable, enabling advertisers to reach customers with highly-targeted content, increasing sales and efficiencies in their marketing efforts.
The fundamentals of social networks align closely to IoT:
- There is a ‘thing’ with which you want to interact
- Technology enables you to connect to that ‘thing’ and gather data from it
- These ‘things’ connect to a network that carries data to a core collection point
- The data is analyzed and combined with readings from many other ‘things’
- Inferences are derived from the analysis and judgment of value is determined
Social networks established the foundation and framework for today’s Internet of Things. So, it could be said that we—you and me—were the IoT’s first ‘things.’
The True Value of Connectivity
The real success-defining element of the internet isn’t connectivity, it’s analytics. The ability to synthesize massive amounts of data into something organized and actionable, was the ‘eureka’ moment. The same holds true for Industrial IoT. The global connectivity of physical devices has allowed us to make advancements and improvements on an exponential scale. Within industrial IoT, it’s the ‘internet’ part that represents the simplest, most commoditized element. While device connectivity is completely essential; a fundamental have to do, the ability to rapidly analyze is where the real value lies.
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About the Author
Shannon Cronin is a Business Development Manager supporting Hitachi Vantara for Tech Data.