Holger Reinhardt

Holger Reinhardt

Holger Reinhardt is a Product Architect & Business Developer at Layer 7. In this role, he explores opportunities related to IoT, M2M and Big Data for Layer 7. Holger has over 16 years of software development experience in Telecom and SOA appliances. Prior to joining Layer 7, he was part of the in-house incubator team at the office of the CTO of IBM WebSphere. He joined IBM through the DataPower acquisition.

April 4th, 2013

Focusing on the Byte-Sized Tree: The IoT Conundrum

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Data Lens for IoTYesterday, we introduced the concept of a Data Lens for aggregating and sharing data. Today, I want to talk about why this concept matters to organizations concerned with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Simply put: “things” generate petabytes of data. Putting sensors on everything, as both Cisco and GE propose, creates a data nightmare. Hadoop has made analyzing big volumes of data much easier but what happens when you want to share a small sliver of that information with a customer or partner? After all, the purpose of “Big Data” collection is not altruism – it’s about monetization. In many situations, this will only be possible if data can be shared easily.

A Data Lens gives IoT data owners – such as manufactures or telco carriers – an easy and secure way to share a focused and billable data set with their customers and partners. Anything outside of the scope of a Data Lens cannot be accessed, whereas anything inside the lens is  “in focus”. The data in focus can be raw or aggregated. There can be any number of Data Lenses on a data set. They can be used internally or shared securely with external partners and customers. Data access through individual Data Lenses can be governed by service level agreements and – through metering – monetized.

For manufacturers and network operators looking at ways to share focused data slices from their Big Data, a Data Lens solves a big problem. By leveraging the Layer 7 API Gateway’s unique ability to focus on small data sets inside larger ones and to present these data sets as secure APIs, customized to specific customers or partners, it’s possible for IoT operators to drive new revenue from their Big Data.

April 2nd, 2013

Mobile World Congress One Month On

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IoT CompaniesIt’s has been over a month since the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and it seems like a good time to review what I learned there. First, I was amazed by the prominence of mobile accessory vendors: from tablet bags to smart phone covers. Second, while IoT and M2M were mentioned, they were relegated to a narrow strip in the back of Hall 2. Taking both of these facts together, it appears that the mobile accessory business is for real and IoT is all hype.

So, are all these news stories about trillion-dollar business opportunities in IoT just stories? Most likely the truth is that no one has yet figured out how to make money with IoT but everyone wants to make sure that they are at least seen to have a plan – just in case it does take off. As if to prove this point, ZDnet made a very different assessment of M2M at MWC. I went into more detail on these issues during my recent interview with DeviceLine Radio.

Personally, I firmly believe in the disruptive potential for IoT. It will be disruptive because it will break down the separation between manufacturing industry on one side and IT industry on the other. Manufacturing companies like GE, Bosch and Siemens will increasingly see IT – and Big Data in particular – as a core competency they will need to master in order to sustain a competitive advantage. Simply outsourcing to IT companies will no longer suffice.

We can clearly see this developing as, for example, Bosch is readying its Internet Application Platform and GE is aggressively building out its Silicon Valley presence. At the same time IT companies are trying to position themselves as natural partners for manufactures or as integrators of smart things. Credit has to go to IBM, which has been pushing this trend as part of its Smarter Planet campaign, way ahead of other players.

Meanwhile, telecom carriers are also struggling to decide what IoT will mean for them. It’s easy to see how telecom’s core business can be seen as just a set of “dumb” data pipes. The challenge for this sector will be figuring out how to leverage its considerable assets, like cellular networks, global roaming and integrated billing, to create M2M business platforms. I think that Big Data analytics on the data piped through their network will have to be part of it.

February 22nd, 2013

The Internet of (Interesting) Things

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IoT at MWCRight now, a lot of companies are gearing up for Mobile World Congress – and Layer 7 is no exception. I’m attending MWC and I’ll be interested to see how the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M play out at the conference. IoT has been getting a lot of attention recently, so – in preparation for MWC – let’s take a look at some of the most interesting things that have been said and done in the last couple of months.

I’m particularly excited about a very ambitious EU-funded project to map an IoT reference architecture. Whether it will really become the reference architecture or simply a collection of best practices is subject to debate but I think the simple fact of trying to pull together all the different knowledge domains into one set of documents is bound to be interesting.

Forbes recently published an article by Alex Brisbourne called The Internet of Things Isn’t as New as It Seems. The article offers some really fascinating insights into the renewal rates for built-in 3G services in iPads and OnStar. Reflecting upon my own positive experiences with a 3G Kindle, I have to agree with Alex that, for connected devices to really reach their potential, connectivity must be simply built-in without requiring a separate subscription.

Another indication of this trend is the fact that car manufacturers are apparently switching from built-in mobile connectivity (requiring the owner to carry a subscription) to tethering off the driver’s existing smart phone. This highlights the challenges telco providers are facing – as summarized in a recent blog post on telco2.net.

Alex Bassi has provided another look at the way IoT is affecting business models, making the point that technology is enabling us to use things without having to own them. In my humble opinion, we’ll see this service-based model, which we normally associate with SaaS and the cloud, extending more and more into the domain of physical “smart” things. We can already see this usage pattern emerging in the automotive sector: car sharing a la Zipcar; limo service from Uber; electric car solutions from Better Place. FastCompany calls this the new “self-service” economy in an article that explores these issues in depth.

To get a good overview of the Internet of Things, I suggest heading over to ZDnet, which regularly posts articles on IoT and M2M. Postscapes, meanwhile, is completely dedicated to tracking IoT – I particularly like this site’s (currently incomplete) directory of companies in the space. There’s also a good collection of relevant essays gathered together on Bundlr.

Finally, here are a couple of links for the technically inclined. First here’s a presentation on the impressive set of open source building blocks developed as part of the m2m.eclipse.org project. Second is a piece that touches upon some technical aspects of the semantic Web that have a good deal of relevance to IoT. This is an area I’m personally very interested in and it might be a good topic to explore in a future post.

In any case, I expect to have plenty of interesting things to report on after Mobile World Congress. If you’re attending the show, be sure to stop by the Layer 7 booth for a chat. We’ll be at booth  #8.1A47 in the App Planet zone.

February 1st, 2013

Managing the Internet of Things

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Category API Management, IoT, M2M

Internet of ThingsIn case you’ve been hiding under a rock or too busy building “things” to notice, the Internet of Things – or “IoT” – has arrived (along with its sidekick, M2M). The buzz at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was just the latest confirmation of the momentum gathering behind this trend.

So, what is IoT? Depending on who you ask, you are likely to get different answers. I still like Adam Baumgarten’s original definition from 1999:  “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”  In case you are still left wondering, here is a fitting visual.

What is driving this? The German philosopher Hegel (bear with me for a second) explained, in his book Science of Logic, that an accumulation of small quantitative change can lead to a much more profound change in quality. I think that the IoT is at a tipping point of this kind, with gradual changes in technologies and business models coming together to cause just such a leap in quality.

The last decade has seen the widespread adoption of SOA, ubiquitous connectivity, increasing commoditization of IT in the form of cloud computing, commoditization/miniaturization of hardware and big data analytics. Cost barriers to innovation have been eliminated or lowered dramatically through “as-a-service” business models. All these gradual advances are coming together to enable something new in scope, scale and ambition: the Internet of Things.

The good news is that IoT will not force us to unlearn everything we’ve been doing for the last couple of decades. Instead, what we have learned will need to be applied at a significantly larger scale. IoT will require highly scalable service-oriented, event-driven architectures.

I think the example of API Management for mobile provides a glimpse of the challenges ahead. Mobile Access to services will no longer happen just through apps built around Web-based standards and patterns. Increasingly, access will happen via embedded micro controllers using low-overhead pub-sub telemetry protocols like MQTT.

In this context, addressing access control, security, developer management, SLA enforcement, scalability, data integration, billing, analytics and device management will become more crucial than ever. Additionally, the sheer size of data “noise” might require edge analytics through adaptive event filtering and thresholding at the enterprise perimeter.

For a company like Layer 7, this future will hold plenty of opportunities to apply our experience in API Management, Mobile Access, SOA Governance and Cloud Integration. Our cloud-based APIfy platform is just the beginning of this journey. I have spent my career working on innovative technologies for the enterprise and I’m very excited to bring this experience – along with my ideas – to Layer 7, where we look forward to providing new and practical solutions for IoT.