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A protocol-agnostic approach for augmenting the value of the IoT

The ever-increasing connectivity between devices and humans makes the internet of things an everyday reality. IoT devices like connected running shoes and smartwatches are fun ways to show its promise. But for enterprises, IoT’s benefits are rooted much more firmly in the practical: connectivity with mission-critical value.

Unlike throwaway consumer-grade devices, business-critical applications typically have long lifecycles during which they add value. But if they’re not sophisticated enough to connect and share data in the same way as a pair of sneakers or a smartphone might, is it time to get rid of them?

The answer is absolutely not.

Where we are headed

While companies and agencies have been connecting devices in a variety of ways for more than a decade, the IoT phenomenon is bringing new focus to this area, and we all see nearly endless possibilities for what we can connect and how we will benefit.

New devices are built with IoT protocols in mind. Manufacturers understand that if they want to compete in the new world of IoT, their products must talk — and in standardized languages. At one time, making that dream a reality would have involved lots of coding, because devices simply did not share the same mechanisms for communicating. Now there is a variety of emerging protocol standards that make it easier to automatically talk to anything without generating code. And that’s why IoT is really taking off.

Soon enough, software and hardware will all be able to communicate very clearly or at least exchange data far more ubiquitously than ever before.

Today’s reality

Companies are not ready to toss out their workhorse devices or ask their suppliers and partners to do so simply because they cannot organically connect the devices via modern IoT protocols, nor should they. Their strategic investments are salvageable by leveraging protocol adapters that convert legacy protocols to modern IoT protocols, thereby allowing them to utilize modern IoT-based systems to gain operational benefits.

To illustrate my point, let’s consider postal or courier services. In distribution facilities, systems contain various types of devices to automatically scan parcels and read bar codes, as well as perform a variety of other functions as they move along conveyor belts. These organizations understand they can gain additional business benefits by gleaning additional data from these devices that can create increased operational efficiencies. As an example, the company might want to leverage a modern IoT-based system to optimize delivery times of packages. The use of this system may require pulling additional pieces of data from legacy systems, which could be achieved with protocol adapters that convert legacy protocols to modern IoT protocols, thereby gaining the benefits of a modern system without incurring the cost of replacing an otherwise well-performing infrastructure. A useful application of IoT would be to connect isolated or legacy systems together to gain greater intelligence and optimization of business processes. Data alone is not intelligence; intelligence comes from combining all of these disparate pieces of data into useful things.

With protocol plug-ins, various devices that were not designed to participate in the IoT era can now share in ways that provide a variety of improved benefits.

A key enabler to extend the reach and success of IoT is to create a protocol-agnostic environment. Protocol plug-ins that automatically support standard IoT protocols and have an open architecture for enterprises to make their non-standard devices communicate offer new life and value to purpose-built and other devices that companies are not yet ready to retire.

Think of solutions like this as automated language translators that allow devices speaking virtually any language to communicate and share data whether or not they began their lives enabled by IoT protocols.

Making way for the brain of things

IoT is still in the early phases, but connectivity in itself is not the most challenging part of the equation.

The true challenge comes in thinking about how to leverage the data that is now available from this very-connected world to create the next generation of business solutions.

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