How to Future Proof your IOT Strategy

By : Swaminathan, Head – Business Unit, IT & ITES, Robert Bosch Business and Engineering Solutions

4 billion connected people – 50 trillion GBs of data – 25+ billion embedded intelligent systems – 4+ trillion USD revenue opportunities: The world of “Internet of Things” is exploding, and the next 5 years is predicted to be the most tumultuous period in the history of modern technology. The number of devices connected to the IOT network is growing at a breathtaking pace, and this presents immense opportunities all through the value chain. However, at this precipice of revolutionary change, it would be unwise to ignore the importance of having a wholesome strategy, future proofing your investments.

The first and foremost, has to do with the sheer size of the opportunity – with billions of devices, the “Internet of Things” is in reality the “Internet of Everything” (IOE) from stardust (miniature computers smaller than a grain of sand) to mammoth thinking machines – there is a definite need for a standardized way for the devices to communicate with each other, a lingua franca accepted across the IOT world.

Assuming we figure out how to get the devices to “talk”, the challenge is of where they would have their conversations. Proprietary or siloed model of interaction is a shot in the head to the very concept of IOE and only interactions through a single (2 or 3 in the worst case) open platform would enable the full use and effectiveness of the connected eco-system. At this nascent stage of the growth curve, it is pertinent that the stakeholders keep their connectivity options open, rather than commit to a single model presumed to be popular.

Big Data (trillions of GB in case of IOT) has already garnered attention amongst the technology experts, but the real challenge for IOT implementation is Code Mapping. In a system with millions of lines of code, how do we ensure that a particular data set is processed by the relevant code-fragment and not by another code-fragment totally unknown to us? The traditional code development-testing paradigm would fail under the limitless bounds and the co-evolution of devices in the IOT world.

A connected home, an automated manufacturing line, a smart city – the devices that realize these concepts view the environment as a functional replica of the physical world. The Internet of “Everything” demands for the functional modeling of “everything” and this is a challenge the IOT community has to embrace to fulfill the connectivity dream. Furthermore, as the human-machine interactions would also be on these platforms, we humans would also have to start using the functional view in daily life, and it is significant that the technologists enable this transition for the acceptance of the interaction.

Changing the perspective from technology to business, there is a tectonic shift in the movement from traditional environment to the IOT business canvas. While the traditional value chain is a linear model, the IOT value chain is a multi-modal co-evolutionary eco-system which adheres to a completely different set of rules. This also presents major challenges in evolving business models for an IOT provider, especially in terms of abstracting the value proposition for the consumer. Obviously, an adaptation of the traditional product business models with insights from the innovative service/internet business models is the need of the day.

Finally, the most intricate of challenges is the trinity of Security, Accountability and Governance. With users from different access media, executing a variety of functional roles and deriving multifarious values from the same use-case, it is imperative that a single-sign-on mode of transaction be implemented for IOT. Here, the significance of security is paramount as the functional models will open up key confidential data through the interactions. Also, the traditional form of distributing accountability as dictated by the black and white scenarios in a business contract blends into irrelevance when the scenarios themselves are evolutionary. With users, service providers, platform owners, device owners, integrators and all the other agents interacting together, the concept of collective accountability has to be embraced by the IOT community. Lastly, a strong governance model has to evolve within the community with the user at its core and a transitional value offering – only this would instill the confidence in a user to open up her/his world to the networked future.

To conclude, the complexities inherent in an IOT system is unparalleled to what the business world has been used to, and hence the age old mantras of success are unlikely to yield the desired results. The only way to future-proof your investments is to let go of the tunnel-vision approach of proprietary assets and to keep an open and transparent eco-system for the partners to collaborate in.