The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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How to eat a trillion dollar pie ?

There is a pie that is baking right now. It is big. It is really big. In fact Cisco pegs it at 14 trillion USD. To put that in perspective, it is roughly the size of the current GDP of the United States of America.  The obvious questions are a) what is this all about and b) how do we bite into it.

The pie is known by several names. Brand managers in corner offices of top companies are working overtime to ensure that the terminology is associated with their respective organizations. IBM calls it "Smart Planet". Google calls it the "Internet of Things". Qualcomm recently tied up with AT&T and decided to call it the "Internet of Everything". Cisco use to call it "Planetary Skin". Now they too call it the "Internet of Everything".  In essence the trillion dollar question is about connecting people, processes, products and data and whatever we need to do to make sense of it all. At Infosys Labs, we call ourselves the Machine to Machine communication group. We call ourselves so because we feel that the underlying commonality is about a lot of machine to machine communication, with a lot of machines representing individual personalities in the virtual world.   

Charting a course in the M2M communication space is a challenging task, primarily because our visibility of the ecosystem remains limited at this point. Before we go to answer how we bite into this pie it is important to understand how the space is shaping up and various positions are being taken. At the bottom of the stack are the silicon providers like Qualcomm, Intel, Texas Instruments etc . Their primary interest is to corner the silicon market. To provide chips for every one of those 50 billion devices that are expected to hit the market by the end of the decade.  It includes smartphones, tablets, ATM machines, connected cameras and what not. Now there are two categories of companies making these devices. There are a few large players like the Samsung and Apple and a large number of startup initiatives hoping to hit it big with a killer product. Also in the fray are the Microsoft and the Google of the world, whose innovation engines are churning out products like Google Glass, Microsoft Surface and Amazon Kindle regularly.

Next up in the stack are the are the alliances in the communication protocols, both wired and wireless. Wired protocols include HIVAC, MODBUS, OBD etc. and the wireless group  includes the Zigbee Alliance, WiFi Alliance and even alliances around 3G/LTE options. At this stage the data movers of the world come into the picture, the Ciscos on the internet side and telecom operators like AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone on the cellular side.

Storing all the data coming out of the billions of connected devices  is the next major issue. Naturally the next layer includes the data storage providers like Oracle, who incidentally have their own M2M platform offering.  The challenge here is to be able to make sense of the very big data sets and to be able to query over them. Slightly higher up are the data crunchers of the world, the Google and Amazons who can provide the computation power to run advanced analytics on the huge amounts of data.

Given this ecosystem, where would be a good place for Infosys to play in? Interestingly enough we have still not answered the question about how to address the consumer's business needs. It is in this space where system integration has a huge opportunity. If we play by our strengths, we can create powerful applications that can harness the innovations at every layer of the stack. What we need to do is to build the right partnerships and create the right ecosystem. If we can execute that part successfully, we can become the foremost system integrator in this trillion dollar space. With our deep client connects, the next wave of application development awaits us.

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