While the Internet of Things (IoT) might be an overly broad set of technology buzzwords these days, a new survey from Red Hat suggests the concept has definitely captured the imaginations of end customers. The challenge and opportunity now is for IT service providers to turn that enthusiasm into an actual practical set of applications that create meaningful value to businesses.
The survey of 565 IT decision-makers and professionals conducted by TechValidate on behalf of Red Hat found that only 12 percent of respondents said their organizations had deployed an IoT solution. But 46 percent said they were either exploring, evaluating, experimenting, or prototyping one, and 43 percent said an IoT solution would be important to their business.
What lies ahead for the Internet of Things
Of course, there’s not really all that much new about the concept of IoT solutions. Many organizations have been running some form of a machine-to-machine (M2M) application for decades. The IoT moniker, however, has served to expand the base of people inside and outside of IT who understand the potential of these applications when they are connected to the Internet, especially now that many of them are becoming more affordable to build and deploy.
There is a fierce debate about how IoT solutions will evolve. Cisco and Intel, for example, are taking the lead on a highly distributed vision of IoT where millions of endpoints feed data back to local gateways where a series of front-end applications will reside. That data will then go to larger data centers for additional levels of processing, cutting down on the amount of raw data that needs to first be transferred across the network and stored in a Big Data storage system based on Hadoop.
Others argue that gateways will do little more than feed data back to cloud computing platforms, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, where massive amounts of inexpensive compute horsepower will be brought to bear on IoT data.
There's more than one IoT solution
IT service providers will probably see organizations making use of both models, depending on the nature of the applications and the model favored by the IT organization that ultimately has to manage the applications. As with any set of applications, there may never be one right IoT answer.
The good news is that we have more or less reached the point where enough is understood about IoT technologies to proceed with building solutions. In fact, the cost of gateways are already being driven through the floor. The actual business use cases that will drive an investment in an IoT application are less apparent. Unlike a generic application such as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, there is no repeatable IoT solution that can be applied to thousands of businesses. Each solution is unique to the business that deploys it.
For IT services providers to succeed, they need to get close enough to a perspective customer to first understand how their business operates. From there, they need to propose a way an investment in IoT applications could either increase profitability for the customer or expand their operations.
Otherwise, the multi-billion dollar opportunity that IoT represents will simply be, as far as many IT service companies and their customers are concerned, yet another set of technologies looking for an actual business problem to solve.