Advances in sensor technologies and internet availability revolutionize the way in which we look and sense the world around us. Weather forecasts or stock prices can be checked anytime and everywhere by using smart phones. According to Gartner more than 50% of Internet connections are currently related to objects instead of PCs or mobile devices.
Although broader themes like Intelligent Infrastructure are attracting more and more attention, RFID is still considered a powerful technology allowing objects and sensors to communicate to each other. In both cases, our lives will keep on being changed by smart objects capable of measuring for example temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure, send this information through the internet, and enable bigger insights out of it.
This new trend is already known as the Internet of Things, a definition which represents more than just a technology advance, but it is probably destined to become associated to a cultural phenomenon like the Internet of Information or the Internet of People.
But what can we do with the Internet of Things? The Internet of Things will help reducing electrical power consumption and improving security and comfort in “intelligent houses”. For example, we can think about lights turning themselves on and off depending on network power availability, and user’s desired atmosphere. Media service providers, electric-utility companies and electronics companies need to find benefit from this scenario.
At larger scale, thousands of sensors monitoring local environmental conditions will be able to supply ad-hoc information to improve safety, optimize throughput and reduce emissions in urban environments. In fact, Smart Cities are gaining momentum, especially in Europe. Some of the parties benefiting from this applications are public or private transportation companies, as well as insurance and telecommunication companies. In the Mobile Health-Care sector, the major revolution would be for applications as Remote Patient Monitoring and Drug Delivery which will reduce the number of clinic recoveries.
Beyond the availability of new ideas, challenges representing barriers to an effective application of the Internet of Things are quite heterogeneous and correlated.
- Standards and Governance: For the traditional Internet, recognized standards like TCP/IP were vital to its adoption. Seemingly, the Internet of Things needs open standards. Nowadays, communication standards for the Internet of Things differ depending on manufacturer and geographic region, whereas there is no global standard which responds to globally accepted level of privacy and security.
- Social impact: The level of automation achieved by applying the Internet of Things will probably have a big impact on society. Companies will be able to track all their products by means of RFID and sensor technologies. The required labor capacity dedicated to closely manage and control the production will be consequently reduced. Therefore, societal procedures at governmental and enterprise level will be needed to optimize employment of personnel by creating alternative job opportunities.
- A common operating system: Organizations are nowadays focused on creating their own implementation of Internet of Things dedicated to their specific business. The result is usually a software skeleton which is rigid and difficult to change. From a business perspective, this implies organizations to focus more on technology development than business needs. Therefore a unified operating system, like iOS or Android for smart phones, is needed. A first step to fill up such a deficiency has been lately proposed by the European Lighthouse Integrated Project.
- A simplified provider’s landscape: Currently in order to benefit from landscape of current and future opportunities of the Internet of Things, enterprises will need to have good vendor relationship and a large offerings portfolio, spanning from Machine-to-Machine communication solutions to Service Oriented Architecture. Therefore, and again, partnership with systems integrators will be crucial to these enterprises.
In a few years the world won’t be so much populated by humanoid robots as by intelligent objects capable of communicating to each other and organize themselves through the internet. Our lives will be changed by applications ranging from smart houses to remote patient monitoring. But in order to fully exploit the benefits of the Internet of Things, a few challenges are on the way and Accenture Innovative Solutions can have a crucial role.