Real world challenges between us and the Internet of Things

Many a blog line has been penned on the rich topic of the Internet of Things (IoT) but not much has been written about the real world challenges between our today and the many promises of the IoT tomorrow. Technology considerations can easily blind us “techies” to more mundane realities but, when you work as deeply in the Smart City space as I do, it is difficult to avoid them. In my opinion, the technology challenges surrounding the IoT are relatively small compared to the real world challenges that are perhaps not so obvious.

Some say the IoT is now, but I don’t believe that! I believe we are on a journey, and the trajectory of every vertical industry to this destination will be carved somewhat uniquely and at its own necessary pace. Healthcare is often touted as a darling of the IoT, but the privacy, security and regulatory issues here might never be adequately solved in a way that will allow this sensitive data to be leveraged up significantly into any wider value creating ecosystem. The automotive and intelligent transportation verticals, on the other hand, look more promising to me in terms of fast tracking their way to the IoT. Much of the data in these verticals is not quite so sensitive, and both these industries are highly motivated to find new ways to create new value to sustain themselves in the face of growing economic challenges.

Case study: the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) vertical

Sometimes confused or lumped with automotive, ITS is in fact very much its own industry and vertical market space. We all passively interact with this particular Intranet of Things throughout the course of our daily lives. It is the system that regulates our traffic lights, manages the flow of our transport systems and keeps count of available parking spaces, etc. All in all, in a typical transport authority there are in the order of 30-50 sensor categories all pumping out unique streams of data 24/7. On the surface, the player roles in this industry are very similar to the mobile industry. For example, transport authorities provide a similar role albeit with a different purpose to mobile operators, and transport equipment manufacturers provide an analogous role in this value chain to wireless OEMs. However, beyond this, these two industries are very different.

The mobile industry has consolidated incredibly through its long history. The advent and evolving tradition of international standards like GSM have delivered enormous uniformity and scale benefits. In a typical sovereignty, there are likely no more than a handful of service providers at most.

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