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A subdued future for IOT


In case you haven't heard, the world is going to collapse soon! Well, not really but scientists and experts from UK have predicted that, at the current rate of data consumption, the internet will collapse in about 8 years. Wow! That's as good as the end of the world for the digital dreams we all had.

Which brings me to my favorite subject - Internet of Things (IOT). This premonition about the 'capacity crunch' of the internet will spell doomsday for companies betting on IOT enabled products and services since they will rely heavily on the internet. Real-time sensor-data transfer over the internet is the backbone of the connected world and one that will bring immense transformation to the way we use products and services. Gartner predicts 20 billion devices to be connected to the internet by 2020. This figure will only increase exponentially beyond 2020. All this internet activity due to IOT will only accelerate the downhill spiral towards the internet capacity crunch. If there is a capacity crunch in the offing, what happens to all the IOT use cases? With no regulations or regulatory bodies, how does one optimize usage of available internet capacity? With much to lose, I think it is time to introspect and determine what could possibly be a more practical choice for customers to get the benefits of IOT while still doing their bit to delay the doomsday.

I foresee a subdued future for IOT rather than the enthusiastic hurrah we hear from most analysts. Let me explain what I mean by 'subdued'. I believe that the theory of a connected world will remain just that - a theory. (Well, at least in the short term until we are able to figure out what and how to handle the entire IOT ecosystem and that too in an unregulated arena.) Gartner may be right about the number of devices being connected by 2020 but when it comes to transmission of data (and here's where the bandwidth crunch comes into play), it may not be practical to have all the connected devices to send data at all times. In fact, the rate and type of data to be transmitted will be controlled by the biggest equalizer in business - the humble customer or end user.

I think it will be futile and in fact amateurish for companies to just put up a few sensors on their products and start relaying the data over the internet. Not every customer would be ready to pay for this service especially if you are unable to show her the value of doing this activity in real time 24x7. I predict a bouquet of services to be offered by corporations to its customers to choose and determine which option best suits their (customer's) needs. Let's take an example of a smart refrigerator. Not all customers would be able to afford their refrigerator monitored for its health 24x7 since that would entail paying for a higher internet plan. Some may opt for an option wherein once the refrigerator starts giving trouble, the customer will be alerted on their smartphone and they will then have the ability to trigger a health check from their phone app. This app will finally push the logs (findings in software code) from the smart refrigerator to the service company over the internet for the technicians to analyze and revert with the best solution. The solution could either be an over-the-air software update or a field technician visit to check and rectify the problem at site. In any case, it will mean that the service company will have data upfront to analyze and decide before any visit.

The higher end customers may go in for predictive maintenance type of service packages which will help prevent failures but for those who cannot afford such premium services, they could at least go for these intermediate solutions. So how does this help in capacity crunch? Voila! - Optimized transfer of data over the internet from these connected devices. These assets will be part of IOT and hence connected; they will support customers to control when to send data and hence control costs and lastly, customers will be in better control of their data - thus addressing the data privacy concerns of many.

Internet doomsday or not, customers will challenge the IOT companies to come out with innovative options that will make the technology economically feasible to all. And it's upon us to make that happen. It will be disastrous for all players to thrust connected devices without providing options on how to optimize internet bandwidth. What do you think is going to happen in the future of IOT?

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