The Internet of Things (IoT) is all around us and growing exponentially. Machine Research predicts 27 billion connected IoT devices will be operating around the world by 2025. IoT will enable us to leverage a massive amount of data that is being generated by all types of devices and things we use and interact with every day. IoT platforms will allow us to get more value out of that data, use it to improve efficiency and automation, and create new capabilities, products and services well into the future. IoT will also be responsible for creating innovations in networking, mobile, security, storage, applications and IT infrastructure.
As Mobile World Congress 2017 focuses on the “mobile IoT,” here are some of my thoughts on where the IoT will have the greatest impact and the role Equinix will play in an increasingly connected digital world.
Early Adopters of IoT
The IoT spans all industries. The question is, “Which ones will be impacted by it first?” At Equinix, we believe retail and industrial will be the first industries to take advantage of the IoT. Retail, with increasing mobile wireless products such as smartphones, wearables and home assistants, and the supply chain logistics that bring them to market, is leveraging the IoT to gain valuable customer insights, introduce new products and ensure customer satisfaction. And the industrial industry, with its connected turbine engines, power plants and vehicles (trains, cars, trucks), leverages the IoT to ensure greater efficiencies and safety in the production, running and maintenance of these things.
We think health care and financial services are up next, once these industries can better ensure the needed levels of privacy and security. Another important industry on the cusp of massive transformation that will be enabled by the IoT is vehicular/transportation. Although we believe it will take some time for standards and technologies such as cellular vehicle communications (V2X) to mature, the IoT in the vehicular industry will evolve into a set of technologies supporting ultra-reliable and low-latency communications critical to public safety and infrastructure.
What the IoT needs to be successful
The IoT requires close collaboration, investment and innovation from network and mobile providers, who are building all the new connections to these new IoT devices. For example, Strategy Analytics estimates that 5 billion devices will be connected via low power wide area (LPWA) networks by 2022. And Cisco predicts that by 2021, a 5G connection will generate 4.7 times more traffic than the average 4G connection. LPWA and new low-latency, high-capacity networks are required for mobile IoT devices and new capabilities such as the auto-pilot in connected cars. And, IoT platforms need to build the storage capacity and ability to “crunch” all the data coming from those devices that is required to get the real-time insights companies need to make the right business decisions.
Security is the number one problem for the IoT. In particular, integrated security solutions are required for all of these IoT devices. Every device that is connected to an IoT platform needs to be trusted and secure, which is not always the case today. This situation is comparable to what we saw in the past with e-commerce, when people needed to be assured about the security and authenticity of the data they were accessing. Similar security solutions are required for the IoT.
Closely associated with security, is a set of requirements for IoT device activation and authorization. This area is especially important for industrial/commercial IoT use cases. For these use cases the overall efficient supply chain management becomes a critical success factor. Supply chain management involves bulk ordering of devices to be used on different IoT networks, correct provisioning of devices with initial security and authentication credentials, and bulk-managed automated device activation procedures and processes.
How the IoT is changing business backend processes
The IoT requires businesses to change their backend processes to:
- Develop a data architecture for collecting, storing and processing all the IoT data – either in on-premises equipment, in the cloud, or both.
- Create a plan to compare new IoT data with other sources of data – for example, customer records or market data – to make more informed decisions.
- Interconnect all sources of data (IoT and other) using high throughput, low-latency connections for a faster response time in receiving, processing and analyzing the data. This includes direct connects to the cloud providers where much of the data resides.
- Adopt a machine-learning/artificial intelligence model that can quickly and accurately analyze the data and provide insights so businesses can quickly move forward with an appropriate action.
These changes all represent a “converged applications” approach that uses both data at rest, which can be batched and analyzed, and live, transactional data that is required to gain insights upon which organizations can take immediate action. Businesses must have these converged apps, and the interconnectivity among them, to successfully harness the infinite possibilities of the IoT.
The role of cloud in the IoT
Cloud providers have both a scalable infrastructure in which to store the data and massive compute and analytical capabilities to process and analyze the data in real time. Cloud providers have developed a full suite of IoT capabilities with software development kits for IoT device programming, activation, management and security, as well as gateways to connect devices to IoT and other platforms. We think that one additional important area for cloud providers is to enable interworking with IoT networks, especially the specialized cellular and non-cellular, low power networks such as 3GPP Machine Type Communications, LoRa and RPMA. We believe that the ability of cloud-based applications to interwork with IoT networks will open cloud IoT platforms to a wide variety of industrial, municipal and commercial use cases and services.
Where the IoT is going from here
We see IoT as the next massive, disruptive wave after cloud. However, its IT infrastructures and interconnections will be complex. It will take designing, developing, deploying and managing a blend of devices, applications, storage, security, mobile, networks and clouds. The IoT is also an increasingly distributed and fragmented architecture that will be evolving for many, many years. Ultimately, it will redefine the digital edge as it expands to include an infinite number of connected things.
Equinix customers and the IoT
As the digital edge is increasingly being populated by mobile IoT devices worldwide, we see a unique opportunity in the IoT market for our more than 8,500 global customers. By harnessing an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy deployed on Platform EquinixTM, they gain direct and secure access to the multiple IoT clouds, network and mobile connectivity, and enterprise solutions needed to build IoT platforms, solutions, and a hybrid IT model to store, process and analyze IoT data at the edge.
Our IOA Playbook is enabling our customers in all industries to architect a digital edge, which puts them in an excellent position to take advantage of the infinite possibilities of the IoT. For example, cloud-based IoT processing ecosystems from AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google, and dedicated IoT cloud platforms, such as the GE Predix Cloud, can all be accessed via the Equinix Cloud Exchange.
Our customers can leverage dense ecosystems of more than 1,400 networks worldwide, including leading mobile operators, to connect their devices back to IoT platforms and clouds. This presents a vital “think-tank” in which network and mobile providers can collaborate, innovate and invent, as well as develop the business and customer relations required to monetize the mobile IoT.
In addition, enterprises and service providers can leverage our broad global reach to build a unique hybrid storage model to pull data in and out of the clouds, and interconnect it to IoT platforms using our Performance Hub and Data Hub solutions.
We will continue to innovate and evolve our capabilities along with building IoT gateways at the edge, aggregating IoT platforms, and adopting new networking and wireless technologies, such as LPWA and 5G networks, so that Equinix is the place where you connect to the IoT.
Read the IOA Playbook to see where the mobile IoT can take your business.