The Internet of things (IoT) technology is in the growth phase of the adoption curve. The industry is likely to double every year for the next 4 years to reach a whopping 46 billion IOT devices by 2020-21. Both consumers and businesses are all waiting to embrace the fascinating impact of the Internet of Things like plates telling you if you are overeating or IP address for each organ of your body for doctors to connect and check. There will be cars that will talk to you about the alternate route options to avoid traffic congestion, take you to the right parking lot and pre-pay before you arrive. We partner with SMEs across Indian Sub-continent, US and GCC on a few IoT application development & implementation projects. We have been working on this technology for over a year now. We believe IoT will witness tremendous growth in all 3 segments – Domestic, Industrial and Smart City in the coming years. However depending on the industry type, number of devices to be connected, data connectivity, power factor and the dependency factor there will be certain challenges and trade-offs.
Also, there are opportunities emerging to overcome these practical challenges. Being a practitioner of IoT implementation across these projects, I share with you the challenges and the opportunities that we found our way and how we went about solving the implementation hurdles. Since it is an evolving science, we are sure to have missed many a tool and technical development that the pioneers of IoT have been implementing. What are the new skills and practices to be learned? Is there something to be forgotten about? I would love to hear your comments and anecdotes as this will help scores of techpreneurs and IoT development community to learn from our collective experience. As usual, please input your feedback in the comments section.
IoT needs standardization
IoT as technology has moved from the labs of the tech biggies to the real world and it is proliferating. It is high time that IEEE creates standards and protocols for IoT. These standards have to be sold by the Governments for universal implementation. The hurdles facing IoT standardization can be divided into 3 categories; Platform, Connectivity, and Applications:
This part includes the form and design of the products (UI/UX), analytics tools used to deal with the massive data streaming from all products in a secure way, and scalability.
Domestic use IoT: When it comes to IoT for home use, the connectivity range requirement is limited to a few meters or maybe up to a couple of Kilometers. This can be satisfied with RFID sensors, Wifi or BLE 5.0 or Zigbee.
Industrial use IoT: Let’s take the case of an Oil Refinery in the remote part of Saudi Arabia. Due to high affordability, a wifi with high-speed connectivity of 2.4 MHZ/second can be established throughout the premises. It will be costly but still affordable. However when it comes to an agro-based company operating in the hinterland of U.P, M.P, and Haryana & Punjab, setting up LoRaWAN(Low Powered Wide Area Network) will be more appropriate. It can cover an area of up to 15 square Kilometers. The trade-off is in terms of low speed of connectivity. So real-time tracking may not be possible.
Application Development: In IoT, there are three functions needed to have killer applications: control “things”, collect “data”, and analyze “data”. IoT needs robust applications to drive the business model using a unified platform. All three categories are inter-related and ecosystems of various companies and suppliers need to make all the work. Missing one will break that model and stall the standardization process. Bringing them to the table to agree on unifying standards is an arduous task.
Battery life and Cost vs. Value.
Let’s take another example of a manufacturer of electric transformers wanting to track 12,000 devices installed through a power grid spread across an area of 500 sq kilometers. The need is not to do a real-time tracking but to track devices once a day for the urban part and once in 3 days for the rural part of the grid. Battery power consumption is a key challenge here. The battery life has to be for 5 years or more. The cost vs. value is an important consideration for a trade-off.
Data driven Protocol and Poor Connectivity
The third challenge is in terms of handling a large amounts of data. Let’s change the example to an insurance company using smart tags to track 100,000 insured livestock. Even when the tracking is once a week, we have employed an MQTT protocol which is up to 70 to 90 times faster and data-centric on 3G network. MQTT protocol consumes both low battery and low bandwidth which is what works for developing countries like India.
IoT & Blockchain are converging to handle data security
With IoT becoming a reality both consumers and businesses need to worry about data security. As the world becomes increasingly high-tech, devices are easily targeted by cyber-criminals. Evans Data states that 92% of IoT developers including us are paranoid about the security of data and devices. We have found an early hope in Blockchain. Since we have a dedicated team working on blockchain development for financial services, we understand the core of transaction security while ensuring seamless service and reducing the scope for human errors. Blockchain works by enhancing trustful engagements in a secured, accelerated and transparent pattern of transactions. We have successfully utilized real-time data from an IoT channel while preserving the privacy of both the hospitals & diagnostic centers (customers) and the OE manufacturer in case of a large healthcare equipment manufacturer. It is secure. The database can only be extended and previous records cannot be changed (at least, there’s a very high cost if someone wants to alter previous records).
IoT-as- a-Service business model
In order to proliferate the IPT technology amongst SME’s, there are various transformational business models where on-demand, pay per use IoT applications will soon see the light of the day. They will be almost zero Capex and drive value for the SME’s. There will be standardized plug n play applications that will create reasonable connectedness and visibility at a reasonable cost. We are keen to partner with likeminded SME’s and also other ecosystem partners to develop a model.
Skilling youth for the IoT & Blockchain development
While running these real-life projects we found a severe crunch of skilled and enterprising talent. This has created another opportunity we call as “KriyaTec Mentorship Program (KMP)”. In this program, we hire fresh engineers and mentor them on these technologies under our expert team for a period of 3 to 6 months. This creates talent for us and the industry to write complex IoT applications. We believe this is an important way to build an army of programmers and application development experts who will build the IoT applications of tomorrow. We wish many more organizations will come forward and start a movement. As an end credit, the potential for IoT business model transformation extends to encompass an increasing variety of more complex, as-a-service business models that disrupt existing industries, particularly for areas such as heavy industry, transport and logistics, and smart cities.