My connected alarm clock (no joke – it’s tethered to the national atomic clock) blared at 6 am this morning and amid me coming to my senses, I was immediately reminded that today is none other than Internet of Things day. No, it doesn’t quite have the cache of St Patrick’s Day or Dia de la Muertos, but the way things are getting connected these days, it’s soon to have the largest pool of participants (some 50 billion “things” could soon have new life through an Internet connection, if estimates are to be believed). And, hey, I sell networks for a living, so today happens to have a special place in my heart.
How connected are things these days? For one, I was on conference call recently when a minute before the hour my smartphone dropped my call and I can only assume it was because it noticed an 11 a.m. meeting on my calendar with my boss (not that the cell network glitched. At what point does my phone tell me what time I need to leave the office to make sure I’m home in time for dinner with my wife in this Bay Area traffic?
Just a few years ago something as simple as meeting reminders was taken for granted. Heck, phones made calls and sent messages; they didn’t help us run our lives and try to make us more efficient human beings.
There’s no doubt that connecting devices will change the way we live and work - but what can a networking vendor do to ensure the world’s propensity for connectivity is managed responsibly and effectively at the same time? Sorting out what’s important, and what needs to be measured, tracked or recorded, becomes a compelling conversation.
This is the foundation of “big data” – but that’s really an understatement. It’s really a “massively huge amount of data.” Just because I can record the tire pressure in my connected car (yeah, it has LTE and serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot), do I need to? How important is that information? Sorting out what’s important and relevant and actually actionable will be difficult. And, sure, consumers’ appetite for data is different than enterprises’. A consumer may not be as interested in analyzing weather patterns to optimize shipping routes for its products, for instance, where that kind of information could yield millions in savings for a logistics corporation.
As the Internet of Things craze continues to evolve and more (at first blush, random) things get connected to the web, companies like mine are working to create ways to better extract and make sense of the information flowing through them. As a colleague likes to say, this isn’t finding a needle in a haystack, we’re looking for a needle in a needle stack.
What does the future hold? There’s a huge danger that things get more complicated as they get more connected. To me, it could kind of look like an old barn full of cobwebs if not managed correctly, versus the mathematical precision of a proper spider web. Automation in the underlying network is key to simplifying how these things get connected, and scalability is certainly critical to managing these 50-billion-and-growing devices. But let’s not lose sight of creating a little value along the way here too. Listen, the value isn’t in the things per se. The value -the money, the opportunity - is in the data. Cash is king, and data is the cash of the Internet economy.
Now excuse me while I take a peek on my phone what my Roomba is up to through my DropCam.