The Internet of Everything - Harnessing the Full Potential of Internet of Things

The Internet of Everything - Harnessing the Full Potential of Internet of Things

Dr Ishwar Parulkar, Cisco Distinguished Engineer and Mobility CTO, Cisco India

The article was Published in ET Online

In recent years, we have undergone a technology and lifestyle revolution with the connection of billions of smartphones and tablets to the Internet and a phenomenal range of applications. We are now entering the next revolution - the Internet of Things (IoT) - where smaller, real-world devices such as home appliances, sensors, consumer electronic devices, etc. are getting connected to the Internet.
The number of such devices connected to the Internet is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020, which is approximately 10 times more than the number of current Internet hosts, including mobile devices. In economic theory, a network effect is defined as the effect where the value of a product or service increases exponentially with the number of others using it.

The full potential of IoT will be realized with such a network effect, when three more elements are added to it - people, data and processes - to create the Internet of Everything (IoE). By adding the 1) ability to gather data from the connected devices, 2) developing platforms that perform analytics on that data, and 3) connecting to existing processes or creating new processes, unprecedented opportunities for industries, businesses and people can be created.
There are some key reasons why now is the right time for this IoE technology inflexion point to occur. First, powerful technology trends - such as the dramatic increase in processing power, storage, and bandwidth at very low costs; the rapid growth of cloud, social media and mobile computing; the ability to analyze Big Dataand turn it into actionable information - are making it possible to realize more value from connectedness.
Second, barriers to connectedness are dropping - for example, the 32-bit addressing scheme for Internet hosts is being phased out by a 128-bit addressing scheme, radically expanding the number of devices that can be connected.

Third, hardware form factors continue to shrink. Today, a computer the size of a grain of salt can include a thin-film battery, memory, sensors and wireless antennas.

However there are still some technology challenges.
  • Standards: The variety of sensor types has led to a proliferation of standards, compounded by the lack of a central overseeing standards organization. The convergence to open standards is critical to wider adoption.
  • Security: Paradoxically, the very principle that makes IoE so powerful - the potential to share data in real-time with everyone and everything - creates a cyber-security threat. Privacy implications include unlawful surveillance, active intrusion in private life and data compromise for businesses. A new, two-step approach that monitors device users through traditional means like authentication and validation, but also monitors the state of the devices in use is needed.
  • Device power: While tremendous advances have been made in building low-power sensors and devices, currently most run on batteries with limited shelf life. Prolonged battery life that sources energy from unconventional power sources is necessary for embedding intelligent devices, especially healthcare and human-wearable devices.
  • Data control and sharing: Data is the currency of the IoE world. Deciding who gets access to data and how that data is used to develop further products or services useful to consumers or sold to advertisers and third-parties is a complex problem.

IoE has applications in several domains, the mature ones being in manufacturing, energy and retail and the rapidly emerging ones being in healthcare, smart cities, transportation, connected home and human-wearable devices. The IoE value at stake in India has been pegged around Rs.21,000 crores by some sources. The primary challenge in realizing the full value is quality and penetration of IT infrastructure.

However that is improving gradually with the impending 4G rollouts and initiatives like the Bharat Broadband Network project. India's unique IoE opportunity and advantage lies in greenfield innovation and potential for outsized gains by leap-frogging to state-of-the-art technology. While the current Indian private and government sectors are well poised to make use of IoE technologies in manufacturing and energy sectors, it is in domains such as smart cities, healthcare and agriculture that India has the potential to be a global technology leader.

The government of India has announced a budget for the development of 100 smart cities. Smart cities can use IoE technologies for making infrastructure network and delivery of services more efficient. This can be done across verticals such as telecom, transportation, safety and security, electricity, garbage, water and gas supply using smart meters, sensors, video surveillance, global positioning systems and data analytics.

In the healthcare sector, monitoring and diagnosis technology, with remote connectivity to doctors in urban areas can make healthcare accessible to more rural areas. In agriculture, farmers can be connected with weather data, soil conditions and yield via sensors and analytics to increase agricultural output.

The Internet of Everything has a central role to play in India's renewed focus on infrastructure, empowering rural population and developing urban centers.

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