Some say the internet of things (IoT) is the most transformative IT initiative since cloud computing and virtualization, enabling companies of all types to achieve unprecedented efficiencies and create brand new revenue streams. Others say it is just another overhyped IT trend that will fade away sooner or later.
Personally, I don’t believe IoT is overhyped. On the contrary, for me, IoT is something that has already been a part of our lives for many years, though it hasn’t typically been recognized as IoT. The technician who comes to your home to measure your electricity meter and reads that data on some sort of tablet device? That’s IoT. Your favorite delivery brand (UPS, FedEx, etc.) that allows you to follow and track that package as it journeys to your house? That’s IoT. The point is, IoT has already been with us in a more primitive form for long time already. Today, IoT is being rapidly incorporated into consumer products, and response from consumers has been enthusiastic, giving this technology the attention it needs to fuel rapid growth in services, devices and, perhaps most importantly, data.
Today, many express concern about the security of that data (and their privacy). It’s certainly an important issue, but I would like to address something that’s perhaps a bit more urgent: the availability of that data.
Let me give a quick example: A few years ago an electricity meter technician came to my house to measure my usage. But when he went to read the data, he found could not access my old data or even the serial number of my device because the data was not available. He made a call to his office where he was assured that the data would be back online in about an hour. Now, he could either go back to his car and sit and wait for an hour or take me up on my invitation to have a coffee while waiting (he choose the latter).
If you zoom out from this individual incident to look at the big picture, while my technician was enjoying a cup of coffee, you can envision how many of his colleagues were also on the road trying to gather data, all having to wait an hour before they would be able to continue their work, simply because the database that was down and needed to be restored. This created a massive cost for the power company that could have been avoided had the data been available. And besides the cost, there was also the damage done to its reputation, as homeowners saw the technicians appear a second time to attempt a second reading.
Data must be available at all times so people can do their work. And in this example, it is certainly important, as my final electricity bill is created from that information. Not having that information — or having the wrong information — would be costly for the electricity supplier.
If we look at it from the consumer point of view, then we know that devices will get damaged, stolen or lost. Ideally, when consumers buy or receive a new device, their old data is streamed again to the device without their needing to do any work. For example, a health tracker that gets replaced should automatically download the historical data again so that people can continue measuring their steps, heartbeat, sleep pattern and all other data they want to track.
But let’s take another example and look at a smart fridge. Over the course of months and years, the data gathered from that fridge makes sure that the owners will get the information of missing items (or even automatic purchases from a store) based on their preferences. If those owners replace that fridge because it is damaged or buy a new one, they don’t want to go through the learning cycle again.
With the above examples, it should be clear that the IoT data gathered should be available at the back-end of the service, which could be a workload at your private cloud or a service running in a public cloud. While we can debate at another time whether that data should be available offline on the device, it is important to realize that the service and its data should be always available. So if you plan on deploying an IoT solution, give some thought to how you will make sure that the data remains available 24×7.
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