In 2012 it was cloud, and in 2013 it was big data. This year, the buzz surrounds the Internet of Things (IoT). The IT industry is anxious to keep itself on the leading edge, and that can sometimes lead to overhyping a trend before its true value is proven. Is that the case with IoT? CompTIA’s latest study, Sizing Up the Internet of Things, takes an early look at this hot topic, trying to get beyond the hype and determine where the opportunities are. Download it here.
A Brief History
As with cloud and big data, there’s no revolutionary premise behind IoT. The first use of the term is widely attributed to Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, who used it in a 1999 presentation he made to Procter & Gamble. The Internet has allowed for connected devices for decades, and everyday noncomputing products have already achieved some form of connectedness with technology such as RFID.
However, multiple advances in technology have drastically changed the scope of the situation. Thanks to factors such as miniaturization of sensors and chips, robust wireless networks, and IPv6, the number of connected “things” is projected to skyrocket from 0.5 billion in 2000 to 50.1 billion in 2020. With all of these intelligent systems in play and sharing data, there would certainly appear to be an increased demand for all kinds of technical support.
Prediction: SPs Will Face Stiff IoT Competition
Solution providers trying to get a foothold in the space should start by understanding the different pieces that come together to form the IoT ecosystem. Hardware, software and connectivity may all be relatively routine — with a few new angles here and there — but there are two major components to be considered. The first is the rules that will be written, especially in the area of standards and protocols that allow devices to talk to each other. The second component is services, an area that typically might lie outside the ecosystem but is so crucial to IoT that it becomes a main ingredient.
These services will build around specific IoT functions. For each new function, existing solution providers will be forced to compete with new companies that are more narrowly focused. In the device space, both break/fix and device management will move from standard office equipment to a wide range of connected devices with new requirements for power and networking. For data analytics, new data warehousing techniques and analytics tools will often be complementary to traditional techniques. And integration efforts will involve new APIs as cloud systems form the backbone for IoT infrastructure.
"Internet of Things" may not be the catchiest name ever, but it does reflect the broad challenges in place for the industry. Just as solution providers needed to change their business offerings and models to address the realities of the Internet, the same transformation will be necessary as businesses try to capture value from IoT.
Seth Robinson is CompTIA’s senior director of technology analysis.