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.


  1. Interesting read. I’m wondering if there exists a standard protocol for M2M connectivity?

    Also, it would be definitely interesting to see how social networks integrate with IoT systems in upholding the principle of using things without owning them and how security principles extend into the sphere of IoT in authorizing people to use things!

    Comment by Niranjan Shukla — March 3, 2013 @ 6:10 am

  2. Regarding a standard protocol for M2M – that most likely depends on who you ask. I think the answer is no at this point in time. Part of this is surely that sensor endpoints vary so widely, from an $500 iphone to $1 temperature reader. Some protocols are getting more press though. IBM have been very aggressive in pushing MQTT (http://mqtt.org). IBM open-sourced MQTT and started standardization through OASIS. They are using the Eclipse M2M platform to reach out to the developer community. Cosm.com (formerly Pachube) does support a MQTT on-ramp to their service. Then there are a myriad of protocols in industry verticals, like obis. I have also seen XMPP and NanoIP being mentioned. And then there are the niche protocols like LTP. Mike Amundsen here at Layer 7 thinks that there are some good ideas in CoAP (http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-core-coap-13). As you can see – just looking at some of the options probably warrants its own blog entry (which I hereby take note of :) ),
    The second part of your question definitely warrants its own blog entry – it is a topic I am personally very interested in as well. So stay tuned. :)

    Comment by Holger Reinhardt — March 5, 2013 @ 5:26 am

  3. [...] Layer 7 blog: The Internet of Interesting Things [...]

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