In 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.