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Susan Nunziata
Susan Nunziata
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Internet Of Things: In Search Of An Architecture

The IoT vision still doesn't have a clear architecture from which to build meaningful business applications, an MIT professor says.

8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

A variety of factors are holding companies back from embracing the Internet of Things. Though Gartner predicts there will be 26 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2020, concerns about data ownership, questionable data quality, inadequate network coverage, and integration with business applications are among the IoT roadblocks.

The biggest IoT challenge, according to Professor Sanjay Sarma of MIT, is the lack of an overarching architecture to pull together myriad streams of IoT information into a flexible and responsive ecosystem of applications.

Sarma was among the participants on an IoT panel at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium on May 21 in Cambridge, Mass. He voiced concern about what he sees as a wide array of IoT point solutions designed to accomplish very specific tasks -- irrigate crops, turn the lights on in your home -- without an architecture to connect all that data in a meaningful way.

"Without connecting the dots, you'll have a disastrous, brittle system," Sarma said. "We don't have a clear architecture of where the world will go."

[Cisco says it's "all in" on the Internet of Everything -- but what does that mean? Read Cisco IoE: When Will Its Time Come?]

Using a consumer example -- the concept of the connected home -- Sarma elaborated on the challenges. "Let's say you want to change the experience when you walk into your home. The lights will come on, music will play, temperature will be set. Maybe Google Maps informs the house that you're near, and then a series of actions have to happen to anticipate your arrival." It all seems great, but what if it's not you walking into the house, but your spouse, who dislikes bright lighting, hates your music, and wants it to be cooler? Your spouse now has to change everything, making life more difficult than before.

Another panelist, Chris Kuntz, senior director of business development with ThingWorx, related that home scenario to business. "People understand it's not just about connecting your product, connecting your smart thing, collecting that data," Kuntz said. "It's about how do you connect it with a business process to effect some sort of change."

During the IoT session, panelist Dieter Haban, CIO of Daimler Trucks North America, described how the company has placed sensors in all its trucks sold in North America for the past two years. The goal, Haban said, is to maximize uptime for the vehicles and their drivers.

The sensors send information to Daimler Trucks' call center, where a customer service team notifies the relevant trucking company about a pending maintenance problem

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Susan Nunziata works closely with the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community. Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Strategist
5/27/2014 | 11:55:49 PM
Re: The Road to a Standard
@Gary_EL: You're right, these days standards are decided based on which format wins the hearts and minds of consumers, not necessarily what is the best technology. Things that DO have pre-determined standards (the CD, WiFi) are now the exception rather than the rule.

While on the one hand this invites more opportunity for all players, on the other it does delay the ability for complex efforts, such as IoT, to really achieve their full potential. WE have only to look at the rapid advances made by cellular technology in countries that had a government standard, compared with the relatively slower growth in a country like the U.S. where there were multiple competing standards on the open market.

User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2014 | 7:09:20 PM
Re: The Road to a Standard
@Gary-EL There is something to that. I had a friend caught in that. Her first job after completing her engineering degree was for the military, but after a few years of teaching, she couldn't get the job back. The military had cut back a lot on its engineering. 
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2014 | 2:55:57 PM
The Road to a Standard
When I first started my technical career, the Cold War was still raging, and the Military had a lot more influence on the direction of technology then it does today. If a standard was needed, they often provided it. Not so today. Standards seem to evolve, perking up from bottom to top rather than being set from above. The IOT is just beginning. It has a long, long way to go before there can be a standard. So, for the time being, it'll be the Wild West. Only the strong will survive long enough to have influence on the eventual standard
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