I’ve started this web site in the belief that the Internet of Things will be big, very big and that there needs to be an independent, Australian, focal point for information and discussion on developments in IoT centred on the implications for Australia. My aim is that this site will fulfil that role.
Right now the Internet of Things might be the victim of its own hyperbole, but there is no doubt that it will impact every facet of the economy, profoundly. Last month the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture published a report Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services. If you need any convincing of the importance of IoT and the profound changes it will precipitate, you need look no further than this.
“Our research concludes that the Industrial Internet is indeed transformative,” it says. “It will change the basis of competition, redraw industry boundaries and create a new wave of disruptive companies.”
Organisations struggling with IoT
This forecast comes with a warning. “However, the vast majority of organisations are still struggling to understand the implications of the Industrial Internet on their businesses and industries. For these organisations, the risks of moving too slowly are real.”
The report foreshadows “a shift from products to outcome-based services, where businesses compete on their ability to deliver measurable results to customers,” a shift that will “require new levels of collaboration across an ecosystem of business partners, bringing together players that combine their products and services to meet customer needs.” However “the lack of interoperability among existing systems … will significantly increase complexity and cost in Industrial Internet deployments.”
It calls for an unprecedented level of co-operation among all stakeholders. “Industries, governments and academia need to collaborate on long-term R&D to solve fundamental technology challenges related to security, interoperability and management of systemic risks. They need to conduct joint lighthouse projects to demonstrate the real benefits and raise the profile of the Industrial Internet among the general public. They also need to implement new training programmes, and provide policy incentives to employers and workers to encourage reskilling for high-demand job categories.”
It adds: “To seize the opportunities, overcome key challenges and accelerate the Industrial Internet development, business, technology and government stakeholders need to take immediate actions.”
An excess of hyperbole
So, the range of players is huge, the need for action urgent. And the landscape of IoT is vast. Gartner last July published the third edition of its Hype Cycle for the Internet of Things. It runs to 110 pages. The Hype Cycle itself is awash with a score or more of different technologies. IoT as a concept sits right at the peak of inflated expectations. Gartner explains: “This is to reflect the hype created by the large demand in, and interest from, enterprises and technology vendors — contrasted against modest actual investment in the IoT. Right now, the spending and investment in IoT is not evenly dispersed. Many of the investments are being made by the technology vendor community to acquire, partner, market and prepare themselves for enterprise, public sector and consumer adoption.”
Even this tome does not cover the gamut of IoT. Gartner describes it as “the ‘master’ Hype Cycle for the IoT — almost like a table of contents and overview.” It says that enterprises should read additional Hype Cycle reports for greater detail into specific areas of the IoT and lists these as the Hype Cycles for: Smart Grid Technologies; Smart City Technologies and Solutions; Vehicle-Centric Information and Communication Technology; Wireless Networking Infrastructure; Operational Technology; Sustainability; Telemedicine; Embedded Software and Systems; and Leaders of Manufacturing Strategies.
In many aspects of IoT, Australia will, of necessity, be a follower rather than a leader. The technology will, with few exceptions, come from overseas. Many of the key issues are likely to emerge first in other countries where IoT implementations are more advanced, but Australia – and that means, government, industry and individuals – will need to develop its own solutions.
Two key questions
Gartner identifies two questions in particular that every country will need to find its own answers for:
“Data: Who owns the data? Who can monetise the data? Whose standards will be used? … An automotive company could argue that data coming from an embedded system in the car belongs to the car manufacturer. The insurance company could argue it is theirs, since they are providing a specific service to the consumer. Of course, the consumer should perhaps own this data, since they are the ones who produced it by driving.
“Customer Relationship: Who does the customer want the relationship with? Take a connected-home example. In the situation of an Internet-connected thermostat, which enterprise will consumers perceive to be the main relationship holder? Is it the connected thermostat company (for example, Google Nest), or the utility company, or the telecommunications company? Many industries and companies are vying for this customer-facing role in the connected home.”
The debate on these questions needs to start in Australia sooner rather than later. As both The WEF/Accenture report and xxx have observed, developing nations have the opportunity to leapfrog the more mature nations by embedding IoT in the new infrastructure that they are rolling out rapidly.
Emerging nations advantaged
“Through targeted investment, emerging markets will have a unique opportunity to potentially leapfrog developed countries in the Industrial Internet infrastructure,” the WEF report says. “As these countries continue large construction efforts like roads, airports, factories and high-density buildings, they can avoid costly retrofitting faced by developed countries by installing state-of-the-art embedded sensors from the outset. These capabilities provide a foundation for smart cities, enabling more efficient use of natural resources, better public safety and citizen services.”
Similarly IDC predicts that Asia/Pacific city governments will kick start pervasive adoption of IoT technologies in 15-20 percent of smart city initiatives. “Asia Pacific city governments are expected to bring about the first wave of IoT adoptions with initiatives aimed at improving city management operations as well as eServices deliveries,” it says.
In summary every sector of Australian society will, sooner rather than later, have to confront issues thrown up by IoT, determine appropriate responses and co-operate with other organisations, quite likely some they have never previously had to deal with.
A forum for information and the airing of views will be needed. I hope this will be it.