IoT technologies emerge to manage connected-device deluge

Deployment of IoT, wearables and connected devices are coming at rates even experts never thought possible and IT must be ready.

BOSTON -- Connected devices are coming at a rate experts never predicted, and IT must prepare to manage them all by becoming familiar with IoT technologies and challenges.

The Internet of Things (IoT) was the hot topic here at IDC Directions 2015 this week as companies figure out the best way to implement a whole host of new connected devices.

IoT was identified as one of several "innovation accelerators" for third-platform technologies (comprised of big data, cloud, mobile and social business) along with related categories such as robotics, natural interfaces and cognitive systems.

'Organizations need to be ready to embrace that connected culture and move from being reactive to predictive.'
Carrie MacGillivrayIDC analyst

"This innovation stage is accelerating faster than any of us expected," said Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst for IDC, the IT research and analysis firm based in Framingham, Mass., which hosted the event.

IoT will continue to see a massive explosion in all walks of life, with IDC projecting the number of connected devices to double from about 15 billion today to about 30 billion in 2020. The need to embrace new IoT technologies was a theme throughout IDC Directions.

When businesses invest in IoT technologies, they could see cost savings. For example, industries could use information collected from IoT platforms to stop mechanical problems before they spiral out of control, said Mike Abbott, general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in San Francisco.

"What does it mean to be able to detect when something is overheating, or when a part needs to be replaced, versus just checking the part every few years?" said Abbott, who delivered the keynote address here. "Let's replace it when it needs to be replaced."

Wearables market to skyrocket

The IoT category of wearable technology is expected to skyrocket. IDC projects that by 2019, there will be 355,000 distinct applications for wearable devices compared to 2,500 apps in 2014.

This is after the wearables market saw 21 million units shipped worldwide in 2014, representing a $3.5 billion market, according to IDC.

"This is a gold rush opportunity for developers going forward," said Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables and mobile phones at IDC. "They will look at this and say, 'I think I know what I'll be programming for.'"

Llamas expected many of those new apps to be consumer-based in the areas of health and fitness, but enterprise impact can be seen with new apps around messaging, social business and notifications.

As that application base grows, wearables such as Microsoft's Internet-connected eyewear (HoloLens) and Apple Watch have the potential to make business processes easier for end users.

"[Wearables] help keep workers' hands free and helps them be more productive," Llamas said. "Think of all the time you save not having to look up information on a tablet or smartphone or PC. You can just get right to it because the information is right in front of your eyes."

In an October 2014 survey of 2,197 mobile developers, IDC found that 88% of developers are interested in building apps for wearables in the enterprise. APX Labs Inc., XOEye Technologies Inc. and Salesforce are among the several companies with platforms in the market to help enterprises  process data from wearable devices, Llamas said.

"Wearables stand to be a valuable touchpoint that'll make IoT systems that much more real and tangible," he said.

IoT system hurdles remain

When IDC asked IT pros in a 2014 worldwide survey what factors would hinder deployment of IoT at their company in the next two years, up-front costs were the top concern among the 949 respondents, followed by security and/or privacy, ongoing costs and management buy-in to the purpose of the IoT product.

"Lack of [security] is an innovation inhibitor," Gens said. "If we don't come up with a third-platform security design, it could become a show-stopper."

Questions about security around IoT could lead to new markets for companies to provide security for connected devices, Abbott said.

Organizations may be missing out on IoT opportunities by not seeing IoT as part of a bigger picture in the first place. During a session, one IDC analyst relayed a story about conversations with the parks and recreation department of a major U.S. city that was interested in deploying tablets.

The city was behind on repairs and needed the tablets to help track and stay ahead of its maintenance schedule, said Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, IDC's research director for smart cities strategies.

"I thought that wasn't really a scheduling problem," Clarke said. "It was more about not understanding the numbers and that could be solved by IoT, with new data captured by sensors."

It's not always easy to get business executives to buy into IoT systems and in some instances, IT doesn't have a seat at the table when those decisions get made, said Carrie MacGillivray, IDC's vice president of IoT and mobile services.

"IoT is at a board level," MacGillivray said. "The CEO is concerned about how IoT is going to affect his business. The board is making strategic investments on IoT, and the CIO needs to be at the table at the start of the discussion."

Strategies, both from IT and business perspectives, have to change to deal with the 30 billion connected devices IDC expects will be online in the next five years.

"Organizations need to be ready to embrace that connected culture and move from being reactive to predictive," she said.

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