IOT – The last missing piece of the puzzle

It was early 1995 when I first heard of something called Mosaic that one could download to browse a rapidly evolving cluster of web-sites.  At that time, the number of web-sites online was somewhere around twenty thousand, but growing rapidly.  When I internalized the implications of what I saw, I told my wife that this thing called world-wide web will drastically change the shape of world we live in.  I could not stop talking about it to my family, friends and anyone who cared to listen…

It’s been 19 years and there have been many technical advances that have gotten me excited but nothing matched my exuberance of 1995 till now.  I get the same level of excitement when I read and think about the possibilities ahead with IOT (Internet Of Things)!  My excitement has nothing to do with the $19 Trillion opportunity that Cisco CEO John Chambers talked about at CES; but more to do with how this shift will alter the way we live and work.

IOT is the acronym to a term that encompasses wide array of technologies that will have connectivity to the web and will be in products, like wearables, or stand-alone devices, like sensors.  The name itself tells you the limits of our (technical folks) creativity when it comes to coming up with a catchy, sexy and appealing term that will be self-explanatory to a non-technical person J  Nevertheless, the solutions and products we will see over the next few years in this category will certainly appeal to general public and will brings transformational changes.

Many industries are bound to be disrupted.  Let’s consider the medical and health care industry, which in my opinion, is completely blindsided to what’s coming its way.  With wearables that track your vitals and daily activities that are wirelessly linked to telemedicine centers around the globe, you will be able to outsource your primary care to a low cost country.  Rather than driving to an urgent care center and waiting to see the doctor after you have been feeling dizzy for the last few days; your primary care physician from across the globe may alert you about your fluctuating blood-pressure or increasing stress level or any signs of an ailment before you feel any symptoms.  The extension to primary care, remote and robotic surgery is not far off considering what’s been happening around the world – US, France, India.

Home automation is another industry where we’ll see a ton of innovation and disruption of established business models.  IOT based devices will not just slash your energy costs (Nest), reduce wastage but will also automate and synchronize activities around your house giving you back time and reducing your effort in housekeeping.  For example, the sprinkler system will read the weather forecast, today’s temperature, monitor the health of grass and plants and adjust watering time and duration automatically.  When you load your dishwater at night and switch it on, it will send a message to the robotic vacuum cleaner that’ll clean up the kitchen and dining area.  Sensors in your refrigerator will not only tell you the products that are approaching expiry but will also recommend recipes to utilize them.  The same can be extended to automatically place an order with your preferred grocery store to replenish items.

The challenges and opportunities to use these devices within the enterprise are no less significant.  How will we manage privacy, security and intellectual property when they proliferate the enterprise, which, in some cases may be self-powered and small enough to be attached to a wall such that they virtually disappear in the décor?  How do we incorporate these nifty little gadgets to improve productivity, well-being and collaboration of the work-force, factories and warehouses?  The data generated by IOT will dwarf the 'big data' that we see today.  Data centers and storage technologies will need to evolve to manage the data traffic and analytics.

Don’t even get me started about smart cities, smart buildings, sports, retail and similar other ideas; I may end up writing a book instead of a blog.  These are exciting times for technology.  A decade from now the next generation will look back and refuse to believe that we had to manually switch off the lights when the last person left the room!

Rajeev Nanda

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Opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent that of my employer, Intel Corporation.