Excitement has been building around IoT during the last years. A vast number of technical articles have been written, explaining where the future digital society is heading to or how our lives are about to change thanks to the “everything connected”. At the same pace, main technology companies are talking endlessly about these topics and announcing million dollar investments or strategy re-addressing around IoT.
Having noticed information before, your conclusion probably is that IoT will play the most important role at this incoming future, and even, IoT technology will also key enabler of other technologies such as 5G. But taking into account that several years in our technological world is an eternity, it seems that IoT business has not been developed yet as expected. Why? How and when will it likely take off? Is IoT in the infinite loop? Let’s try to sketch current situation and find out where IoT goes to.
Some reasons for current deadlock
Every network operator is reluctant to deploy a new network infrastructure unless it is completely necessary. Only a great confidence in the final application (i.e. revenue) may justify an investment in private network deployment, which is usually very expensive.
Until now, the majority of IoT solutions such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LPWAN – Zigbee, Sigfox, LoRa and Weigthless among others – have been developed on unlicensed bands where IoT services must tolerate any interference generated by other ISM applications. Therefore, QoS can not be guaranteed while coverage is increasing and certain advanced IoT use cases would be unfeasible.
Nowadays, the more technology provided to people, the more technology they demand. However, this sentence is true as long as technology provided is reliable and makes life easier; as commented before, today IoT is not yet reliable enough so society is not pushing for this technology development.
Furthermore, if you go over the IoT landscape you will read assertions about IoT like “IoT is much more than just hardware”. Fortunately it is, otherwise IoT would not bring too many benefits to Europe & US, as China is indisputably leader in manufacturing process. So, what “much more than hardware” means? The IoT power is DATA. IoT is an ecosystem of data generation and that huge amount of unstructured data should be processed to make sense – Big Data or previously named as Data Mining -. It can be understood as a sort of machine learning and these last years AI has been being developed, away from the spotlight. Consecuence of this development processes or prototyping is that IoT has been “just a bit more than hardware”.
NB-IoT and AI, the new hope of IoT
NB-IoT is about to be standarized by 3GPP and main mobile network operators point out that this technology will be rolled out just through a base station equipment upgrade. If so, large coverage and QoS (same as mobile network) would be guaranteed with few investment because NB-IoT is expected to be integrated in 4G technology, and later 4.5G and 5G. What if a reliable IoT service was offered to users everywhere? Main Mobile Network Operators and manufacturers such as Huawei, Vodafone, Ericsson and Nokia estimate that upgrade will be available in 2016Q4 or 2017Q1.
On the other hand, AI is about to beat market and society with new use cases in financial services, cancer and other disease researching and so on. IBM, among others, has been making many efforts in AI to boost Big Data and other new applications. IBM strategy is focused on Watson
Watson is the first technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.
AI is here.
We will likely miss our own decisions, reasoning and understanding of the world as consequence of IoT ecosystem growth, so start thinking about how you can prepare your brand for this new era of ultra-connected everything.
Daniel Sánchez Vega.