The Internet of Things (IoT) could transform organisations but still presents challenges - including how to cost-effectively and intelligently manage huge numbers of connected devices and develop suitably scaleable, adaptable and robust applications.
The rapid growth of connected devices will create new opportunities for IoT app developers, OEMs, IT suppliers and businesses looking to bring new products and services to market. It will also create new revenue streams for resellers with the know-how and capabilities to guide organisations on their journey to becoming "connected" businesses.
High-speed cellular networks and more powerful machine-to-machine (M2M) microprocessors are enabling OEMs and providers to develop sophisticated software and services. Yet a fragmented, complex IoT ecosystem presents a major hurdle; there's no IoT app standard, for a start.
This silos organisations, forcing them to develop connected solutions for each market and customer. Countless engineering hours and huge financial resources may be needed to build and rebuild basic functions such as integrating processors, modems, and memory, and piecing together an application for each market.
Then there's the incompatibility of new connected apps with the existing features of the devices on which they should run. Even more integration and custom development may be required.
And once an organisation does get a product or service developed and deployed, there's managing the devices and their associated data in the field to worry about - particularly once the project broadens to take in multiple regions, wireless networks, and perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions of devices.
A development environment with support for multiple programming languages and tools should be built into solutions, giving developers a head-start in writing, testing and troubleshooting the code.
In addition, an application framework with pre-integrated and pre-tested components such as code libraries and protocols for common functions, for example connecting to a network or sending an SMS message, is needed.
Apps should also be able to be reused and evolved across multiple devices and multiple generations of devices, to protect the developer's investment and allow a service to be scaled up over time.
An open-source-based integrated platform could meet a number of these requirements. A community of embedded developers can more easily build up a foundation of expertise over time, while ensuring the application can be supported in the long term, regardless of hardware changes.
It may allow developers to port their applications, or even portions of their code, more easily from one device to another and from one generation to the next. This could help drive innovation - in the way similar strategies have in so many other areas of technology development.
Indeed, standardisation could ensure the IoT dream doesn't turn into a nightmare of lock-in and silos. A number of industry initiatives are under way to address this issue, such as oneM2M, which has 200 industry members working on common specifications for IoT devices and services.
Another important factor to consider is how to ensure scaleability and seamless management of connected devices. IoT deployments could leave organisations having to maintain hundreds of thousands or even millions of connected devices. They will want to send service updates and track the performance of all these devices in real time.
A cloud-based management platform can help manage and monitor millions of connected devices remotely and scale services according to demand.
By understanding how to simplify the development and the management of connected devices, the channel will be able to tap into the IoT evolution and help their customers successfully drive innovation and business growth.
Olivier Pauzet is vice president of marketing and marketing strategy at Sierra Wireless
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