The internet of things and mobile devices are creating a convergence of digital technology platforms that will eventually create a “one-stop shop” for consumers and businesses.
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Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be nearly 21 billion connected devices in use worldwide. This includes consumer products, like smart TVs and in-car entertainment systems, as well as industrial applications that can predict necessary maintenance in a factory or the most efficient way to distribute energy from a power plant. The ability of these applications to connect and interact with each other offers new ways of communicating and, for enterprises, opportunities to realize new or additional revenue.
But, especially from an industrial standpoint, the uptake on this new type of platform has been slow as enterprises seek out the best practices for connecting with multiple endpoints (customers, partners, employees, assets). The movement to cloud-based mobile-first strategies, which optimize connectivity with customers, employees and assets deployed anywhere in the world, creates additional layers of complexity.
Consider the energy industry, for example. In short, too many organizations in the energy sector are operating infrastructure that is analog, aging and outdated. It’s time for utilities to switch out “dumb” assets for smart assets that can communicate digitally. New technologies, including sensors and digital control systems, can use real-time data to deliver better power plant outcomes with stable and efficient operations, while providing valuable predictive insights for higher reliability and optimization.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing industry is that the various technology options supporting IoT remain fragmented, with many different standards and technology, each of which can apply to different applications, making the concept of an internet of things rather less plausible. In fact, Forrester says that this year, design teams will search through more than 19 new wireless connectivity choices and protocols to support the company’s diverse set of IoT devices.
Rather than internetworking, it is more like an archipelago with many islands.
To illustrate this, let’s say you’re getting ready to go to a meeting that’s on your calendar and you’re using your phone’s GPS to drive there. Right now, the parking app doesn’t say it will take 20 minutes to drive there and you’re going to have to park far away, so you better leave now. Google Maps knows the drive time, but can’t tell you the parking situation — that would be a different service.
The need for multiple apps will begin to change as the convergence of the technology creates synchronization between applications. We’re seeing this as the advent of cloud-based M2M device management systems has begun to lessen the need for multiple apps and create more streamlined platforms. On top of that, mobile network operators are now willing to forgo being the main service contractor and provider, choosing instead to partner with M2M/IoT platform providers and third-party system integrators in the realization of their M2M/IoT strategies.
The growth of these connected networks will have an impact across borders and across industries. For example, the automotive industry offers an opportunity to deliver a borderless and unrestricted connected car experience, regardless of location. Transportation and logistics companies can realize new cost efficiencies in their business.
Borderless connectivity enables airline aircrews to stay connected to their company network, regardless of their location. And building connectivity into aircraft will help in diagnostics and servicing, potentially helping to identify a problem with an aircraft before it creates operational issues.
We live in an era in which technology has enabled consistent, borderless communication. The always-connected nature of today’s world is breaking down barriers to innovation and communication that previously existed. While challenges remain, we are clearly moving towards digital platforms that enable this convergence for consumers and enterprises around the world, both in developed and developing markets.
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