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Tomorrow's Internet of Things Integrator

31 Mar 2016 by Howard M Cohen

Since there is no separate Internet just for things, the same Internet skills you learned to network with people across cyberspace will help you embrace and extend your business into the Internet of Things (IoT).

Defining IoT

A Cisco executive explained several years ago that there have been more “things” than people on the Internet since 2008, so the idea of connecting devices without users is not new. With projections of 50 billion more devices being added to the Internet in the foreseeable future, there are clearly many opportunities awaiting the ambitious IT service provider.

IoT is loosely defined as the processes required to connect sensors, automated switches and other devices to work together to perform functions that improve visibility, increase control, reduce cost and otherwise improve processes. So hint No. 1 for the IT service provider is that you will be learning much about process automation.

The first big opportunity is to scale.

Enabling the IoT is all about scale and interoperability. In our recent article in this series, “Tomorrow’s Network Integrator (NI),” we talked about how the proliferation of Wi-Fi and IP-enabled devices coupled with the proliferation of virtual servers each requiring many IP addresses has exhausted the supply of addresses available from IPv4, the original Internet numbering system. Like NIs, the Internet of Things Integrator (IoTI) will have to begin by migrating customers to a hybrid of IPv4 and IPv6 addressing, and then ultimately to a pure IPv6 environment. Without doing so, there is no way to cope with the anticipated scale of growth.

But the scale opportunity doesn’t end there. All of those things that will be connected to the Internet will need management at a completely different scale than exists today.

The management burden is even more challenging because most all of the “things” being connected are substandard. In fact, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) dubbed the transport protocol for Internet-connected-things “RPL,” which stands for “Routing Protocol for LLNs.”

LLN means “Low-powered, Lossy Networks.” To keep them affordable, especially at scale, cheap processors and little memory are used in them. Much more sophisticated protocols and software are required to compensate for the high failure rate of all these substandard devices.

The big long-term opportunity is interoperability.

In the end, everything has to work well together. Process automation switches from one vendor, sensors measuring all sorts of environments and control hubs from another vendor  must all speak clearly to each other for any IoT solution to actually work.

The quest for interoperability is already happening with consortia popping up like weeds proclaiming new standards. Of course, once you have more than one “standard” you have no standard.

Meanwhile, integrators have an opportunity to offer IoT integration services to progressive customers who want to be first to leverage these new technologies.

Where will opportunities spring up first?

Opportunities will arise anywhere that benefits from process automation and monitoring. Major cities around the globe have launched “Smart Cities” initiatives, putting IoT technology to work automating transportation, water reclamation, power utilities, and even street lights and traffic lights. Many IoTIs will establish their reputations by helping to realize these visions

Manufacturing plants drive down human resource costs by employing IoT capabilities. Physical plant management achieves a greater balance between occupant comfort and energy costs in smart buildings. Premises security is being redefined. When IBM talks about IoT they talk about “cognitive” — a group of services designed to apply artificial intelligence techniques to profoundly improve processes.

Gain Insight

As stated at the outset, your IoT skill set is a TCP/IP skill set coupled with some development skills and deep knowledge of process automation. Turn to your Insight support team to point you toward all the right training resources to give you the jump on the IoT.