Closed And Fragmented IoT Ecosystems Prevent A Paradigm Shift In Data Acquisition

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the major buzz-words flying around the technology sector these days. Add to the mix some other buzz words – namely, big data, analytics, and data science – and you have yourself a veritable sea of jargon. It is practically impossible to steer clear of over-used words, right?
As I see it, the main premise of these technologies is the same: harness data and leverage network communications to improve decision making and performance.

Much of the technology brought together to form the IoT as we know it today, including software, sensors and network connectivity, has been around for many years. We can trace the evolution of much of the software we use today back several decades. Sensor technology was developed decades ago as well. The use of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, which refers to direct communication between devices over wired or wireless networks, has been used in the industrial sector in one form or another since the early 20th century, long before the advent of wireless communication. The modern internet traces its roots back to the work of, among others, Tim Berners-Lee on the world wide web back in the 1980s and 90s.

The rules of the game have changed

But new smart sensor technology and massive strides made in software, computing, and connectivity technology, have changed the rules of the game. Much of the existing sensing and machine-to-machine technology in the industrial and infrastructure segments is inefficient at best and obsolete at worst. Furthermore, visibility of conditions within sprawling networks of dispersed assets is lacking.

As more sophisticated and affordable sensor and networking technology continues to come to market, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) looks primed to gain major traction. The major obstacle that remains, however, is how to gather data in an efficient and secure manner. The most sophisticated algorithms and models used for industrial automation and resource management are only as effective as the quality and quantity of the data fed into them. Protecting critical infrastructure and the SCADA systems that increasingly control them have become a matter of increasing concern.

Ayyeka, a Jerusalem-based technology company, develops turnkey, cybersecure and modular remote monitoring solutions to enable smart infrastructure and environmental sensor networks. Ayyeka’s combined hardware-and-software technology stack streamlines and secures the process of collecting data from remote locations and dispersed assets and delivering it to decision makers, industrial control systems, as well analytics and business intelligence (BI) software platforms.

Competition is driving fragmentation

The IoT market in the consumer segment is getting more crowded by the day with aspiring entrepreneurs looking to grab a piece of a rapidly-growing pie. Sensors and smart devices are becoming increasingly pervasive. A future in which every device will have an IP address and be connected to the cloud seems to be on the not too distant horizon.

But too many companies, including many of the corporate giants in the tech sector, are working to develop “the best” IoT platform to collect and process data from all of these connected devices. This is creating a fragmented and confusing market where most platform developers will struggle to reach critical mass. Consumers will have to navigate through a sea of brand names and try to decipher which devices will be compatible with which platforms. Device makers will have to determine which platform developer to align their technologies and R&D efforts. The companies that have excelled thus far in creating an IoT offering have focused on providing intuitive solutions that are widely compatible and make integration simple.

The IIoT market is going through an evolution rather than a revolution. Much of the technology is long-existing and still in the process of being improved upon. But new entrants are coming to market with sensors, devices, services, and software offerings that are often standalone platforms. These technologies are being introduced at the same time that cloud technology is gaining momentum, and the number of communication protocols and IIoT platforms is growing in number.

It is still early days for cloud-based industrial automation systems. Technology companies playing in the ecosystem will have to be malleable in order to succeed. Picking winners and losers among platform developers is a nearly impossible task.

Industrial end users face the same uncertainty when choosing vendors. Developers of IIoT platforms and other components should focus on more open solutions. The Alliance for Water Efficiency is a good example of end users and suppliers converging on open and modular solutions to avoid the pitfalls of fragmentation. Developers of IIoT devices that focus on delivering modular and end-to-end solutions that are sensor, software, platform, and SCADA agnostic, are more likely to gain competitive advantage over mere platform developers with niche and bespoke offerings. Ultimately, the greatest value technology companies can deliver to end users is a full suite of solutions that address their challenges and improve their performance.

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