IoT Blog

internet-of-things

14 Aug 2016

General

What is the Internet of Things (and why won’t it solve all my problems)?

The Internet of Things has become a “buzzword,” something everyone’s talking about. No one is happier about this than us.

We’ve been working on this since 1998 or so, so we’re overjoyed that the rest of the world is finally starting to see the possibilities of the IoT world and thinks it’s as cool as we do.

Let’s start with the definition, so we’re all on the same page. The Internet of Things, or Machine-to-Machine as it’s sometimes called, is all about things, machines, systems and vehicles – to name a few examples – connected to a network. The purpose is to be able to control them remotely, monitor their status, or generate data that can help us understand the business, or reality, better.

For example, our MIIPS platform is currently used in public transport to connect a bus. Then you can view the position of the bus in real time, its fuel consumption (and give the driver tips on how to drive more efficiently), keep track of how many passengers have traveled, how much they paid, and much, much more.

Nothing unusual so far. Everything in the world is connecting.

The really interesting thing is when all these features are tied together, forming a chain.

Imagine a meat farm in Småland, in southern Sweden. Through smart sensors, every step of the animal's entire life is monitored. We keep track of how it feels, if it’s getting enough food and nutrients and so on.

When the cow goes to slaughter, the information comes with it. When the meat is packaged, all the information is printed out, along with how and when it was slaughtered, when and where the meat was packaged, when it was inspected, and what the temperature was when it was shipped to the store. The customer buys the piece of meat and puts it in the fridge, which in turn keeps track of how long it has been there. Now let’s say some bacteria are discovered in the meat, and it has to be recalled. Simple – there is full traceability in both directions. Maybe we can even ask the fridge to warn us?

This is where the idea becomes astounding. Now imagine that we add information about carbon emissions to the entire chain. The information can in turn be aggregated and used anywhere.

It’s easy to understand that the Internet of Things has become a buzzword. It’s no exaggeration that the possibilities are endless.

This might be something to be careful of in itself. According to the consulting firm Gartner, new innovations follow what is called “the hype cycle.” We could maybe translate this to “the exaggerated expectations cycle.”

According to Gartner, all new innovations follow the same pattern. First, they are discovered by an ever-widening audience. The phase is called “Innovation Trigger” and it gradually leads to more and more interest and investment in the area.

At the end of the phase, the innovation is at the height of its expectations – what Gartner calls the “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” Most people here have such extremely high expectations for the innovation and how quickly it will change our lives that they will never be realized.

A rapid decline then begins, followed by a slow recovery, which ultimately results in the “Plateau of Productivity,” the phase where the innovation is finally starting to deliver on its real potential.

Guess what Gartner says is the highest up on “the mountaintop of exaggerated expectations?” That’s right – the Internet of Things.

Gartner

Scenarios such as the “meat chain” above are not science fiction. They will be a reality. It’s even possible to create them now, with the technology and platform we offer.

But such chains also involve multiple companies – probably more than five – that all need to play their part. No single one can take responsibility for the entire process.

This means it will take a little time. Maybe each company will only do a part, and the big revolution will come when the various systems can start talking to each other.

Or maybe one company – such as one of the ever-growing grocery chains – will take control of the chain, and set the standards for the suppliers they connect with.

It remains to be seen. We can only continue to develop our platform and its apps. Everything we’ve described here is ready to happen, if the companies want.

The conclusion then? Yes, it’s easy to fall in love with all the possibilities the Internet of Things offers. If we can do all this right now, it will be interesting to see what scenarios we can imagine tomorrow.

But the IoT can’t solve all your problems – at least, not yet.