The Internet of Things – Interconnecting the Herd

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In this YouTube video, Jazz for Cows, an American jazz band serenades a herd of cows in Autrans, France, proving that, like their human counterparts, French cows really connect with jazz. But not all ranchers can keep track of their herd by gathering them together with Dixieland music. This is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes into play.

The IoT allows animals, people or objects to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. The IoT is all about machine-to-machine (M2M) communications where each networked “thing” has its own IP address and can exchange information and perform actions on its own. The IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and the Internet, providing businesses with the ability to track mechanical things (e.g., cars), embedded things (e.g., heart monitors) or mobile things (e.g., cows), just to name a few.

The business opportunities of the IoT are far reaching, impacting everything from manufacturing to healthcare to agriculture. For example, the IoT enables “cow data” to be interconnected with cloud-based big data analytics to track and analyze the movements of the more than 1.5 billion cows grazing on the planet.

One Dutch start-up, Sparked, is using wireless sensors attached to cows’ ears to measure the vital signs of the Netherlands’ bovine population. Dutch farmers can instantly see if a cow is sick or pregnant via their smart phone or computer. The animals’ movements, eating habits and response to environmental factors can also be monitored.

The Dutch cow-tracking system generates 200 megabytes of data per cow, per year. At last count, there were 1.5 million dairy cows in the Netherlands. That’s a total of 300 million megabytes of cow data going over the Internet each year.

Where the growth of the IoT is coming from

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25 billion “things” will be connected to the Internet as part of the IoT. In fact, it is now believed that the number of things connected to the Internet exceeds the number of people. Gartner estimates that consumer applications will make up over 50% of the connected things and will reach over 13 billion in 2020 (see table below).

Internet of Things Units Installed Base by Category

Category 2013 2014 2015 2020
Consumer 1,842.1 2,244.5 2.874.9 13,172.5
Generic Business 395.2 479.4 623.9 5,158.6
Automotive 96.0 189.6 372.3 3,511.1
Vertical Business 698.7 836.5 1,009.4 3,164.4
Grand Total 3,032.0 3,750.0 4,880.6 25,006.6

Source: Gartner (November 2014)

With the large number of interconnected personal, home and lifestyle smart devices coming onto the market, the IoT will forever be integrated into our lives. For example, in many “smart homes,” the refrigerator will know that you are running out of milk and send you a text to buy some more on your way home from work. That is, unless your refrigerator just automatically calls your store for a delivery so it is waiting for you at the door.

The IoT global data field

The IoT creates a “global data field” comprised of all of the things and people connected to the Internet. This massive amount of data is much more than mere humans, and most machines, can take in or manage. This presents one of the largest challenges and greatest business opportunities within the IoT industry. This is why big data analytics could be one of the most important technologies to come out of the IoT.

Today, the cloud plays a huge role in providing big data analytics services to enterprises. According to a recent report by GigaOM, 53% of enterprises are either using the cloud now (28%) for big data analytics or are planning to do so (25%).

Interconnection is the IoT central nervous system

Interconnection provides a “central nervous system” for the IoT global data field. It enables IoT big data to be collected, stored and transferred to one or multiple systems or clouds for sorting and analyses. The resulting information can then be communicated to other systems or people who need it. Performing all of these tasks flawlessly and in real time is a “must have” requirement for the IoT to succeed.

The proximity between the data that is being collected, the networks that are transporting it and the cloud-based systems that are analyzing it, is paramount to delivering this high quality of service assurance. This all translates into the IoT needing secure, reliable and high-performance interconnection. Interconnection and proximity is something that Equinix currently provides to its more than 4,500 customers who house their IT infrastructures, data, networks and clouds in our 100+ global data centers.

In upcoming blog articles, we will explore how the Internet of Things is opening up new opportunities for multitenant data centers, network providers, cloud service providers, enterprises, and yes, even cow ranchers, as they prepare for the IoT big data avalanche.