You’re probably tired of hearing the hype about the Internet of Things (IoT). Well, I am getting a little overloaded.

As you probably know – the IoT is the magic carpet that will connect devices (mainly sensors), enabling seamless communications and monitoring/control from anywhere in your plant, home or indeed the world. After I did some initial research last year on what the real magic is, I have become somewhat disillusioned with the flood of articles on the IoT.

Dear Colleagues,

You’re probably tired of hearing the hype about the Internet of Things (IoT). Well, I am getting a little overloaded.

As you probably know – the IoT is the magic carpet that will connect devices (mainly sensors), enabling seamless communications and monitoring/control from anywhere in your plant, home or indeed the world. After I did some initial research last year on what the real magic is, I have become somewhat disillusioned with the flood of articles on the IoT.

There are predictions of massive growth with over 50 billion connected devices within the next five years (with 30% to 50% annual growth required to achieve this). Will this indeed happen and change your life? I have my doubts.

To be quite frank - the IoT is a pretty old concept - remember the good old radio telemetry systems where one connected to RTUs from centralized control systems over a radio network? Thanks to cheaper and smaller hardware and software and the internet, we have simply extended this concept to a wider range of items ranging from medical tracking to fitness to energy management at your home.

Remember the Fieldbus Wars?
Some of you may remember the clash between titans in the instrumentation world in the mid nineties. Essentially, between vendors promising to connect field devices and actuators together with tremendous benefits promised. Solutions proposed ranged from Profibus DP/ProfiNet/ASiBus/Lonworks to Foundation Fieldbus/HSE with Ethernet also being proposed.  It was an all or nothing race – only one communication solution was going to work and you had to choose.

It turns out that there are a horde of possibilities being used today ranging from the above with Ethernet/ TCP/IP and the venerable Modbus solution playing a role today. The key has been easy connectivity between the different communications solutions and a focus on business benefits.

Not Everyone Believes the Huge Growth of IoT
There are many who are ‘pooh poohing’ the massive growth in IoT with some pundits saying that if you as a company hitch your wagon to these growth predictions; you are likely to be seriously disappointed and financially out of pocket.

Where does the IoT start and finish?
As usual the home is one of the key areas for IoT. The IoT provides for easy connection between your thermostat, energy and security systems – all connected to the internet and controlled by your smart phone. Inevitably one of the first and major problems with this architecture is the lack of a common communications infrastructure. A veritable Tower of Babel where everyone is using their own protocols to connect their own devices.

There is no evidence that consumers want everything connected together as there are no immediate benefits. Apart from a few vague benefits in connecting remotely to your home to check it out when you are on holiday in the Seychelles.

As has been the case for the past 40 years – solid growth for IoT is undoubtedly in industrial plant, factories, pipelines and utilities where more devices will be installed at far lower costs with seamless connectivity possible. Other opportunities are in tracking parcels, telemedicine and healthcare.

A few Challenges Along the Way
As usual – there is no working business model yet. Hence the hype. And the software to analyze the ferocious amount of data needs to be put in place with demonstrated successful applications. Naturally, one of the issues that fills me with the ‘heebie jeebies’ is the need for solid cyber security to avoid the inevitable remote thugs taking over your plant and doing horrible things to it.

I am sure we will get there with the IoT with a great (business) working model. But it will take a bit longer than is predicted.

Bearing this in mind – keep researching the market and keep up to date with what is happening – you may find an application for your products with great business benefits.

Thanks to Lou Frenzel in Communiqué writing about The Internet of Things: Hype, Hope, or Hit? for an interesting dissertation.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve

Mackays Musings 12th January’16 #582       
125, 273 readers www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay