Internet of Things infrastructures need to function more like Twitter, says Eurotech

By Peter Gothard
26 Jun 2014 View Comments

Machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures need to function in a way that is "analogous to Twitter", embedded technology company Eurotech said today.

Speaking at the opening of Intel's fourth innovation centre for the IoT in Swindon, Eurotech product strategy manager Tim Taberner warned the industry about the dangers of M2M architecture with over-complex communication protocols, reducing their ability to freely exchange all the data they should.

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"We need to encourage people to come in, pick bits of data, and find ways of slicing and dicing that to produce a business benefit," he said.

"And that only works if all of the detail and complexity of the underlying machine-to-machine architecture in the devices is completely abstracted. Typically at the moment if you want to get some information from a device, you actually have to know quite a lot about that device - how it's connected, what communications are like, what protocol it's talking, probably what address it's at, even at what registered address within the unit the information you want lies."

Taberner said it's up to the industry to "turn this around, to be data-centric".

"We need our M2M to work in a way that's analogous to the way Twitter works. I can say I'm interested in ‘hashtag Eurotech', and find out about that without knowing any of that other stuff. M2M needs to turn around to the way of operating."

Luckily, this is precisely the "grown-up" conversation Intel wishes to begin having with the enterprise in opening the innovation centre, as the company's embedded Internet of Things director for EMEA, Rob O'Shea, explained: "We're at the stage now where we have a tipping point, and real deployments are happening, and the idea behind the labs is to stimulate that innovation, and build real solutions that we can take to market and we can deploy."

With an estimated 50 billion devices on the globe by 2020, and a population growth rate so high that London will have gained a new wedge of inhabitants "the size of Birmingham", O'Shea spoke of how conversations about, and understanding of, good underlying IoT infrastructure need to begin as soon as possible.

"Sometimes you talk to people who have no idea of the value a smart building can have," O'Shea lamented.

"Why have a people counter on a door? Well, you can start looking at flow through the building, manage energy requirements, understand what parts of the building are being utilised and which aren't, and feed that into intelligent systems..."

Taberner concurred with O'Shea's assertions on the worrying lack of awareness of the true value of IoT in the wider world.

"When I talk about the IoT, I get three reactions," said Taberner.

"One, people just don't get it. But of the people that do get it, they either get really excited about all the things they could do, and go off and disappear into a room for three or four years while they think about it, or they say ‘This is great, let's do a pilot test to prove it'."

This, he said, is where the real problems arise.

"They think of a use case, probably their biggest point-in-time problem, and then they think about putting a solution in place.

"Say it's a system to help people work out where all the free car parking spaces in Cambridge are. So now they have a budget, and a project manager to deliver it.

"But from his perspective, he goes out and says ‘Well, I could put in a bright, shiny IoT system and I knew we were talking about that, but actually there's someone locally who already does this'."

Taberner described how this behaviour then leads to "another system with siloed information, and the IoT structure doesn't get touched. And that gets compounded with funding models around it."

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