The predictions of there being many millions, if not billions, of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020 are soon to be put to the test. Even measured predictions, such as Beecham Research’s estimate that the number of endpoints will grow 20-fold in the 2016 to 2022 period, demonstrate a vast increase in scale.
This white paper from technology company Aeris asserts that soon, it will become more normal to connect all assets and devices, wherever they are, rather than the current few exceptions. IoT solutions will move from a tactical nice-to-have to a strategic necessity, and the internal debate will move from being about the cost of IoT solutions to the perceived value increase they can deliver to offset the cost.
To plan for scale effectively, organizations should recognize that buying what fits their IoT offering today is not the real story, nor is it a viable long-term strategy. Instead, they should be looking ahead to much more widely deployed services with 20 times the endpoints to manage. They need to buy what fits tomorrow’s requirements because changing the system later is costly and disruptive. However, to plan effectively, organizations need to be clear about the growth prospects of their offerings. A specialized agricultural service has, by its nature, a maximum market size and there’s no value in over-provisioning systems to serve a market size that is unrealistic. Equally, an IoT service that potentially could involve millions of global endpoints needs a connectivity plan that enables such scale to be achieved.
Organizations therefore need to carefully assess the scalability of their connectivity, their processing power, their resources and their budget. All these will need to move in harmony to be at the right scale when needed, without wasting money on under-utilized capabilities and capacity.
Plan for scale: define the issues and upgrade capabilities required
Aeris explains that many deployments are limited by organizations’ existing internal processes that have been designed for traditional IT or equipment upgrades that pre-date IoT. IoT is a different arena and needs to be approached in specific ways. Organisations need the operational and support processes that promote this new form of growth to encourage operational efficiency throughout the process. This, in turn, will empower users, conserve resources and accelerate time to resolution.
Organizations need to accommodate for global expansion at the onset of deployments and choose providers that can support them in all their potential markets as they grow.
Finally, it’s important to address the supply chain. The more specific the requirements for your devices and modules, the longer the lead time required to deliver them. It’s important to streamline production of equipment by taking advice from the vendor community on what sorts of equipment and services can be deployed rapidly and the likely supply timelines. In addition, consider the time required to install and configure devices. Look to accelerate and simplify deployment by selecting devices that can self-configure and begin operating without human intervention.
Manage the ecosystem in a non-standardized environment
The IoT ecosystem is crowded, and lacks industry standards to enable easy integration and interoperability between different devices and systems. This is not likely to change any time soon despite the best efforts of standards bodies, such as ETSI, and IoT-specific initiatives, such as oneM2M, across the globe. The standards creation and ratification process involves so many stakeholders and a collegiate approach that it may take many years to finalize. For IoT services, that’s years too many. The urgent need is to get to market quickly and compete in the new market place.
To achieve this accelerated market entry, Aeris suggest that organizations should look for partners to help them navigate the non-standardized environment
Key provider attributes
When seeking a technology partner for an IoT deployment, some things to look for include:
Providers should be full stack. Organizations should look for a partner that can supply more solutions that will integrate smoothly with each other.
Providers should offer technology flexibility. It’s important to make progress now rather than waiting to see which standards win. Waiting could mean missing out on a potential new market, but flexible providers will be able to position you for whichever technology wins out.
Providers should demonstrate proven results. It still is early days for large-scale IoT markets, so few have had real world success. However, there are some providers that have and are successfully providing their partners with IoT technologies at scale. Those that show success now will only add more experience and expertise as the market matures further.
Reduce time to market
The need for speed is vital for success, provided the service can be successfully rolled-out to a large market. One of the major causes of delay is the need to change platforms and technologies between a first launch, which was dimensioned for a small trial, and a next generation solution that can address the mass market. Think about the end game first and select solutions for first launch that can be rapidly extended to address a larger market as the service develops and matures.
A good way to get started is by using off-the-shelf solutions to prove out the business model in a small, trial situation. This can substantially lower the barrier to entry by eliminating development time and costs. If the offering takes off as initially planned then you can upgrade to serve a larger market by turning to an expert provider to support your offering at scale.
Preventing future delays, even at the start of your IoT project, should be a priority. Ensure the solutions and service you select are easily upgradeable so you can avoid obsolescence and can alter your technologies as the demands placed on your services change.