Imagine a world in which every device in the home, workplace and car are connected. A world where the lights automatically turn on when the car approaches the driveway, the coffee starts brewing when the morning alarm goes off and the front door automatically unlocks when approached by a member of the household, but stays locked when a stranger arrives on the front step. That is the type of world the Internet of Things can create.
Currently, the “Internet of Things” is not a second Internet – rather it’s a network of devices that are connected to the Internet that is used every day to search Google, upload images and connect with friends. It’s a network of products that are connected to the Internet, thus they have their own IP address and can connect to each other to automate simple tasks.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is in its infancy. It has not been fully developed and is fragmented. Luis Galvez, director of the Internet of Things Consortium, a group dedicated to bringing companies together to accelerate the development of the IoT, compares the current state of the IoT to the birth of the computer, noting businesses and consumers are just learning that products can connect to the Internet and now it’s time to figure out what to do with the technology.
“The current state of the Internet of Things is very fragmented,” Galvez explained. “There are different companies and organizations that are building out their own platforms for either their customers or their individual needs.”
Development of the IoT
For the IoT to be fully realized all devices need to be able to connect to each other, regardless of what company manufactured the product or which companies have business relationships with each other.
Here is a case of how the Internet of Things is currently being used: a company called Rest Devices has developed a set of baby pajamas with its Peeko Monitor designed to detect Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; when a baby’s respiratory rate reaches alarming levels, the parents receive a text message or phone call, or a call is made to 911. It’s a very rigid system, controlled completely by the pajama maker. The sensor can’t communicate with an alarm clock or house lights for additional alerts. In order for that to happen, Rest Devices would have to also manufacture those devices, or work with those that do.
“The true Internet of Things is when the users can simply buy the fire alarms and the baby jammies and as a consumer simply say,’ I want to tie those two things together very easily,’” said Chad Jones, vice president of product strategy at Xively, the IoT division of LogMeIn.
In order for that to happen, there needs to be a platform on which the devices can connect directly. Some companies have built their own platforms to connect devices manufactured within a single company, creating closed solutions to solve specific problems, but those closed solutions add to the fragmentation of the growing, and already crowded, industry. In order for all connected devices to communicate with one-another, they all must be connected on the same platform.
The internet provides a great example of the problem. Imagine if all Apple devices had their own specific internet, including sites and services, while Samsung, Asus, and others had their own as well. The results would be far from beneficial, and we would likely not have the robust singular World Wide Web we all enjoy today.
Enter Xively, a cloud platform that serves as a “messaging ridge between devices,” which launched worldwide on May 14 after being in beta for nine months. The Xively platform has been integrated into LogMeIn’s internal cloud platform called Gravity, which is in 10 data centers around the world and services 255 million users. Companies can then build their products on top of the Xively platform, which allows them to easily connect to any other device on the platform, regardless of which company manufactured it or if those companies have a business relationship. According to Jones, there are objects in over 240 countries connected to the Internet via the Xively platform.
However, more needs to be done for the Internet of Things to be fully realized. Jones says consumers must also be able to discover connected devices, while companies must secure communication, register, control and deactivate, and record data collected by the products.
“Our development path going forward will continue to add functionality that enables even more platforms, that allows you to work with more of the protocols that are out there,” Jones said.
Xively is the “Switzerland for communication,” Jones said, meaning it supports almost every protocol out there and supports different standards, thus enabling them to interconnect.
The Value of the Internet of Things
The true value of the Internet of Things does not lay in the lights turning on when the car reaches the driveway, but rather the data that the connected devices collect about its users. Imagine a hospital with connected devices. The data collected from those devices outputs information on the status of patients and runs analytics on the various monitoring machine, helping the hospital to run as optimally as possible.
The collection of data from devices will allow consumers, businesses and even entire connected cities to run more efficiently. However, collecting large amounts of data presents challenges.
“Some of the challenges that still need to be figured out are partially around the algorithms that can process the data and give you something valuable out of it,” Galvez said. “What are you actually taking out of all this data you are collecting?”
With the collection of data come major privacy and security concerns for consumers. Both Galvez and Jones agree that it’s up to the manufacturers of the products to ensure they are protecting user data.
“It’s up to the individual companies that are building these products to make sure they’re safeguarding their user’s information by protecting the data as best they can,” Galvez said.
As the platform on which connected products are built, Xively does not have direct access to user data, Jones explained. Xively does not connect with the user because it does not know who the users are. Instead, it’s collecting data from the devices and what the devices are sensing, but it can’t then connect that information back to any particular user because does not have a user list. For Xively, the product manufacture is its end user, it’s the manufacturers whose end user is the consumer and thus up to them to protect individual consumer data.
Despite security concerns, data collection is a key component of the realization of the Internet of Things and is embedded in the end goal of the IoT.
“The goal would be for all these devices to talk to each other and people to have access to this information depending on the value they can device from it,” Galvez said.
The value derived from collected data can range from saving a few seconds turning on the lights to saving a baby’s life to a huge financial savings for a connected city. Galvez explained that the Internet of Things will allow more information about the world to be gathered, thus allowing users to interact and react to the changing environment and bring about “drastic economic impact.”
When it comes to placing a number of the economy of the IoT, different experts have different predictions. Jones said some experts call it $1.2 trillion by 2025, while Cisco estimates the industry to reach $14.4 trillion in the same time frame.
Jones simple estimated “the economic potential of this type of environment is something that is going to dwarf the Internet and mobile combined.”