Must-Read: IEEE Internet of Things Ecosystem Study 2015
As a developer, CIO, product manager, IT pro, or in some instances, all of the above, no doubt you’ve been bombarded by Internet of Things (IoT) messaging over the past year. Well, how do you define IoT? Who are some of the key players and technologies that you should familiarize yourself with as you prepare for the development of your IoT product offering? And why should I even care about IoT standards? The IEEE IoT Ecosystem study is a good place to start, providing comprehensive insights into these topics, and more.
In 2014, the IEEE created an Internet of Things Initiative to coordinate its IoT efforts. As part of this Initiative, the IEEE-SA engaged stakeholders across the world in early 2015 to create an IoT Ecosystem Study. The stakeholders were involved in a series of roundtable discussions where the following questions were seeded:
- Who are the players that are positioned to shape the IoT market?
- What market segments and verticals are poised to drive the growth of IoT?
- What are the technologies enabling the growth of the IoT today?
- What is missing from the business-model point of view?
- What standardization bodies are doing important work to enable the IoT?
- What specific standards activities do you think of when you think of the IoT?
- What is missing from the standardization point of view?
- Do you see IoT activities as more suitable for regional or global standardization?
- What can research, industry and academic institutions contribute?
The overall format of the study was based on these questions and then divided into the three principal discussion areas of Market, Technology, and Standards. In addition, an examination of the role of academia and research and the importance of user acceptance was covered.
Who is the IEEE Standards Association?
The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is a leading consensus building organization that nurtures, develops and advances global technologies, through IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). IEEE is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. AT&T has a number of active members participating in IEEE across the country.
The study is available for free from the IEEE-SA website, to both members and non-members of IEEE. In my opinion, this study provides a very clear and comprehensive overview of IoT, including the identification of gaps within the ecosystem (e.g. security, semantics, big data integration, reference models, and more).
Summary of the Study
Below is a high-level summary of what is covered in the study.
What is IoT?
According to the study, there is no “official” definition of IoT. In fact, the definitions varied widely between participating stakeholders. However, without a common definition of IoT, it will be challenging to put together solutions and standards, or even define problem areas.
For the purpose of the study, the IEEE-SA arrived at a definition – IoT refers to any systems of interconnected people, physical objects, and IT platforms, as well as any technology to better build, operate, and manage the physical world via pervasive data collection, smart networking, predictive analytics, and deep optimization. In addition:
- There are many IoTs, including global IoT, as well as local and private IoTs. The term “IoT” encompasses all of these.
- IoT products include devices, apps, and services (e.g. smartphones, tablets, intelligent networks, big data analytics, and cloud storage)
- IoT devices, for the most part, will be self-configuring and adaptive to reduce the need for human interaction. However, it is likely there will be situations where devices will be more rigidly constrained to satisfy safety, legal and regulatory obligations.
The Market for IoT
The IoT market is rapidly increasing globally but is fragmented. There are a number of early, active players that are currently creating products for where they see a market. The study examines the players by the following categories/verticals:
- Commercial players in the “off-line” world
- Commercial players in the “on-line” world
- Research and academia
- Governments and utilities
- Other players
Some of my key takeaways here from a developer perspective is that the market for IoT is truly global. Also, the growth of IoT may be accelerated in emerging economies, due to the fact that they do not have to deal with as many existing infrastructure issues. The study also looks at market segments and verticals that are poised to drive the growth of IoT, and provides real-life examples of IoT applications across verticals and how standards designed for different verticals need to interoperate to ultimately deliver business value. Market segments reviewed include consumer goods, eHealth, Smart transportation, Smart grid, Smart city, distribution and logistics, public safety, industrial and manufacturing, agriculture and natural resource management, and big data analytics.
Major technological advances are now fueling the growth of IoT. This includes improved communications and network technologies, an abundance of new kinds of sensors, and cloud and local storage that is cheaper, denser, power efficient, and more reliable. The study provides an overview of the following technology categories:
- Sensors, actuators, and smart devices
- Networks and communications
- Computing and storage
- Big data analytics
The study also covers what is missing, or what improvements need to be made from a technology point of view. What’s interesting is that technology available today is enabling the deployment of IoT products, however, at the same time, there are several areas where technological improvements need to be made. These include:
- Quadruple Trust: protection, security, privacy and safety
- Sensor, actuator, and device improvements
- Networks and communications
- Semantics and intelligence
- Big data
- Functional safety
The IEEE-SA study provides an overview of the standards bodies that are doing work to enable the IoT. It also looks at specific standards activities related to IoT, including an emphasis on the creation of global standards. Finally, a review of what’s missing from an IoT standardization point of view is covered (includes the aforementioned common definition of IoT, interoperability, quadruple trust, architecture and reference models, scalability and application standards).
One of the most important drivers of standards is to avoid the creation of silos that will make bridging applications across verticals very challenging.
In summary, the IEEE-SA Ecosystem Study provided a view and snapshot of the current state of the IoT ecosystem, as seen through a collection of IoT experts. Although the published study did not go into great depth on each of the players and technologies and was not exhaustive, it did provide good background information on the IoT ecosystem at a high level.
We’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the study in the comments section below.