On the eve of IOT World 2018 it was Mother’s Day in the US. As I searched Amazon to find an accessory for the Echo I gave Mom at Christmas, I was faced with the option of a voice controlled lightbulb or wall outlet, neither of which screamed we are living in the future. The upside at least was the websites I perused the next morning were aware of my search not completed and everywhere I went, there were those smart plugs. For all the grand visions, this was a stark reminder that the Internet of Everything is in its market infancy (and hype maturity) – and walking through the IOT World exhibition hall was a reminder of this.
The greatest benefit of the event was the amazingly diverse group of people and companies represented, from semiconductor suppliers to credit card and financial institutions through to service providers and the biggest of the big cloud providers. Companies working on everything from home digital assistants through factory automation or agriculture and from IP providers to platform integrators gathered to discuss common strategies to solve issues and problems they see as they begin to roll out solutions. It’s at this point you realize that IOT is a movement not an individual product or technology, and will truly be built on transformative technologies that cross traditional market categories.
Technology fundamentals are becoming pervasive, but it is still baby steps.
Three key areas where it was encouraging to see significant progress from the industry:
1. Connectivity and visibility are being layered with security and manageability.
Security remains one of, if not the, key theme in the IOT conversation. With every new technology, the attack area is expanding. Despite the continued growth in the cybersecurity market there are platforms that are electing to balance cost over security despite technology readiness and maturity of the trusted platform modules and secure element market.
The tools are coming online - Microchip was demoing their security suite which uses hardware root of trust to authenticate securely within a cloud agent, Google in this case. The best software in the world that runs on hardware that isn’t trusted can be a threat. By providing fundamentals of hardware security to the smallest of IOT nodes allows deployments that can be trusted to not be an entry point for malware into the system. Coupled with a host of key management and identity management providers, Rubicon Labs and Idiom Technologies to name a few, and the IOT developers now have some real solutions at their fingertips. Continuing to track this fundamental element of IOT will continue to give valuable insight into the market and values across the multiple industries.
2. Platforms grow legs and become real developer toolkits
IHS Markit is tracking over 400+ emerging IOT platforms. With this breadth there will be multi-dimensional growth. What was critical in the discussion and demonstrated in various booths was the understanding and realization that it is really an ecosystem discussion. Samsung gets the gold star for what they showed centered around their Artik platform. The response of providing a comprehensive toolkit from sensors with easy connectivity to secure processing with cloud connectivity and a growing library of functions while expanding partnerships shows a commitment to enable the engineering community with the tools to speed time to market. The trend that is important is the breadth of any one ecosystem. For IOT to be successful, the catalog that the implementer can select from must be vast and have the software support and integration into the platform. This is an area where companies realize they need to be enabling interoperability and ecosystem support, but when you dig deeper in the product offering, you can see how limited most solutions still are. Expect to see movement in this area in the coming quarters as the market really build up the offerings.
3. The Edge is emerging from the Fog
While the idea of tethering data at the node to compute in the cloud is a good idea, there are some inherent limitations to how these scale and operate under certain loads. Meet the new kid on the block, the edge gateway. Think of it as a very scaled down version of the cloud, but on premise with the nodes. This new take on an old idea gives flexibility to deployment by allowing (1) data aggregation in situations where you don’t want 10,000+ sensors constantly reporting “I’m ok” and offers the ability to filter 99% of the sensor data from the valuable uplink, (2) lower latency compute for certain time critical or real time workloads – think video object detection for safety applications (3) security functionality centralized where the sensor data will either lack basic functionality of the ability to update critical patches over time and (4) resiliency for situations where the network connection is not optimal or where you want still operate normally in offline situations. The show had many good examples of gateways from a range of companies - everyone from AWS to Clearblade. The growing selection in the market signals highlights the fact that IoT solutions are finally starting to scale beyond trial phases into more robust deployments.
Looking ahead to a year of progressive growth
IHS Markit has established four primary pillars for the IOT movement: connect, collect, compute and create. The IOT World 2018 was another step in showing where the industry has made progress on the “connect” and “collect” pieces of the story. We look forward this year to continued progress in “compute” and particularly “create “as transformative technologies such as AI, Blockchain, and cloud begin to find legs. There are real problems that still need solutions for large scale IOT to become mainstream and ubiquitous, but there are signs of maturity…and perhaps Mother’s Day in a year or two I will be able to buy that robot dog Mom has been talking about since she saw Bezos with one.