The Internet of Things has been redlining the hype-o-meter for several years. Pick your favourite analyst for the global economic value figure and it is likely to be somewhere between $1.9 (Gartner) and $14.4(Cisco) trillion by 2020. It is therefore little wonder that virtually all businesses within the electronic-systems life cycle and beyond are eyeing ways in which to take advantage.
It is not just business either, David Cameron has stated his ambition to make the UK the most digital nation within the G8. As part of that assertion he recently asked the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, to conduct a review as to how the Internet of Things might help us achieve that. In the final report, Sir Mark Walport made 10 recommendations for government to take forwards but noted that successful delivery would require a close partnership with industry, the UK research base, the public, other national governments and international organisations.
Whilst the Internet of Things means many things to many people (and there are many definitions), I find it useful to think of it on three levels:
- It is an industry: a collection skills and capabilities which can supply a market.
- It is also a collection of technologies: at the simplest of levels it combines computation, communications and sensors but of course it is so much more than this.
- Perhaps most importantly, it is also a collection of markets and applications.
This makes it a tricky concept to fully understand but whichever way you cut it, the IoT will be at least transformative, and quite often disruptive. To paraphrase David Cameron, the IoT will “boost productivity, keep us healthier, make transport more efficient and reduce our energy needs”. It’s clear why governments should be interested.
Yet it is also easy to trivialise the IoT when exposed to, what I call, the speciation of consumer gadgets looking for a market. We’ve seen examples of white goods suggesting they will make our lives easier (do not mention toasters!) , or quips from journalists such as David Manners when he reported a new killer app had been found for the IoT in “odd sock syndrome” – and for the record, I like David Manners, he makes me smile. Leaving the nonsense behind (market and Darwinian forces will take care of them in time), it is clear to those of us who have been around a while that, beyond mobile, the IoT is the next big thing (and mobile gets new life with the IoT).
At NMI, we’ve been observing the evolution of the IoT since we first looked at the major trends pointing this way. Our Future World Symposium (FWS) was built on connectivity, embedded smarts and (what we called at the time), the other stuff which electronically-enabled systems (sensors and actuators). Our vision was quite simple, once you’re in the digital domain innovation will explode – the original name for FWS was the Digital World Symposium (but that’s a different story).We’ve been considering what more we can do, as a trade association, for some time to help it along. We’ve been very deliberate to avoid adding to the mountain of hype that already exists and the many initiatives which have exploded. Yet now is the time to act as we look to bring together a UK community around an important theme which is built on what we like to call “deep tech” (as a counter measure to other types of hype which surround “digital” – see Stan Boland and Sir Hossein Yassaie’s talks at the 2014Industry Summit ).
The answer? A focus on IoT security.