IoT: starting the conversation

11 Sep 2017

First there was the PC. Dial up, WiFi and MSN Messenger. Then came Google Maps and, God forbid, Tinder. Because finding your colleague on your dating app isn’t unnerving at all, right? Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT), a phenomena taking connectivity to an entire new realm.

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The internet of what?

The IoT is essentially just that: a mammoth network that connects anything to the internet. This includes everything with an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch, from your TV remote and toaster to your watch and your car. Pause for a moment and picture it: all the things talking to all the other things, generating, sharing, analysing and storing information. But that’s just the beginning.

Frank Zeichner is the CEO of the IoT Alliance Australia (IoTAA) – the country’s peak IoT body with a vision to grow Australia’s competitive advantage through IoT. Great premise, really, especially given Australia’s 22nd/138 ranking on global competitiveness (more on that later).

Frank says the most compelling thing about the IoT is the ability to predict and automate responses based on real- and over-time data.

“I like to think of it as translating the physical world into the digital world. You can create a data image of the environment you’re in, and by having situational awareness, you can start to recognise patterns so you can predict, optimise and actuate information, which is amazingly ground-breaking,” he says.

It’s a colossal phenomena, the IoT, and it has the potential to change everything.

Game changing

At the heart of it, the IoT has the power to deliver experiences that better meet the interest and intent of the recipient, regardless of the platform. It’s about productivity and efficiency; problem-solving before there is knowledge a problem exists. There are huge gains to be made, financially, environmentally and sustainably. The industries set to benefit include manufacturing, retail, healthcare, agriculture, automotive and insurance.

To see the IoT in action, look no further than the below video. It shows how our friends in the US are driving innovation with the IoT to help people achieve things beyond their wildest imagination.

How it works

The IoT starts with data, which is sourced from sensors stored within a given device. The data is connected to a data centre via a network (the internet), usually wireless, on one or more platforms, where analytics are applied so that valuable information can be shared to address specific needs.

It’s all very exciting stuff and, best of all, it’s becoming increasingly accessible.

“The reason the IoT is happening is that the costs of sensors, networks, data centres and analytics is decreasing exponentially. Think back to 1985 when it cost $250,000 for 1GB of data. Now it’s nil. Things have massively changed and the cost equation has changed which means we can all work smarter,” Frank says.

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Despite this, a large chunk of Australian businesses are pressing pause on the IoT button.

The need for collaboration

The World Economic Forum ranks Australia at 22 out of 138 on the Global Competitiveness Index 2016-17.

“In both business sophistication (28th, down one) and innovation (26th, down three), Australia not only lags far behind the best performers but also loses ground to them,” the report states.

Frank says the key to unlocking Australia’s IoT potential lies in collaboration, and that this is particularly true for the IT industry.

“No one vendor can provide all the elements. No one vendor knows all the industries. There needs to be collaboration in verticals and within verticals to make the IoT work.”

The world has literally never been more connected. Gartner concurs, with analysts predicting there will be more than 24 billion connected devices by 2020. Some organisations stretch this figure up to 50 billion.

If this stat makes you feel nervous, you’re not alone. There’s a palpable fear of security, or lack thereof, in the world of the IoT.

Security matters

Security for the IoT represents a significant challenge for many businesses, which is one of the reasons why the IoTAA has made security a key priority.

In February this year, the IoTAA released its Internet of Things Security Guideline. The guideline offers practical advice to protect the security and privacy of users.

The guideline recommends a multi-layered approach to create the best defence system for the IoT.

“Security at both the device and network levels is critical to the operation of IoT. The same intelligence that enables devices to perform their tasks must also enable them to recognise and counteract threats,” the guideline reads.

“Fortunately, this does not require a revolutionary approach, but rather an evolution of measures that have proven successful in IT networks, adapted to the challenges of IoT and to the constraints of connected devices.”

Arrow and the IoT

At Arrow ECS ANZ, we recognise the potential of the IoT and how partners can work with us to create and deploy IoT solutions for their customers. We are focused on driving innovation and pushing the boundaries of the seemingly impossible to deliver incredible outcomes, and are collaborating with some of the industry’s largest manufacturers to ensure our partners build a sustainable practice in the world of the IoT.  Watch this space to find out more. In the meantime, if you have any IoT related questions, phone one of our experts on 1300 673 506 or email ecsanz.info@arrow.com.