Many of you will be familiar with the term IoT – well it’s hard to miss if you scan the press, social media and business pages. CGI have a long track record working in this area, so in this blog, I thought I’d provide a potted history to the term, its origins and what it means to us at CGI.
The Internet of Things as a descriptor is attributed to Kevin Ashton from MIT in 1999 and the work they were undertaking to understand the potential of low cost sensors on daily living and the home. Prior to the use of the IoT label solutions involving connected things or devices were referred to as Machine to Machine (M2M), SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) or Telemetry. The term M2M has been used as a generic term for all such systems, SCADA solutions were typically deployed for transport or Utilities (e.g. Network Infrastructure Monitoring and Control) and combined both monitoring and remote control capability. Telemetry is restricted to simple monitoring eg for measuring power usage or pumps in an industrial context or the term was also used for tracking vehicles eg public transport. These M2M solutions were dedicated to particular purposes, generally isolated from the other IT with the information locked into a specific operational silos.
So is IoT simply another name for the same thing or is there a more fundamental concept underpinning the use of a different term?
There are many different definitions around Internet of Things and M2M, seeking to make a distinction. At CGI we have adopted the following:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a world where smart objects are seamlessly integrated as part of a global network; where smart objects interact without human intervention to deliver new services or improved processes. IoT redefines the way humans and machines interface and the way they interact with the world around them.
M2M is an enabling technology that delivers Internet of Things to our clients. This technology is in general provisioned by the communication providers.
In drawing out the distinction between IoT and M2M it helps to make clear where the potential for IoT lies:
1. Although IoT has tended to a have a device and consumer orientated focus the capabilities that it offers are directly applicable to any organisation or enterprise and have the potential to contribute operational efficiency and the launch of new consumer services. This is significant as it will be within the business market that the value for IoT will be recognised which will ultimately benefit the consumer with new services and enhanced life experience. The original vision for IoT.
2. The use of IoT in organisations enable services to be delivered where the data acquired from ‘things’ or ‘assets’ can be utilised across the business, not just restricted to specific business function and users, as with M2M solutions. As such IoT can offer a potential complement to existing services, which need to be maintained for operational reasons or a replacement where their cost have become prohibitive for continued use. There is also, clearly, the opportunity for new services that have not been possible to deploy for technical or commercial reasons which will be possible. Such IoT solutions can also share functions between applications increasing speed of deployment and reducing cost of ownership. All of which enables lower value assets or things, which previously M2M solutions were too costly to implement for, have the potential to be smart (eg individual items tracked in their packaging in a container, not just the container, a bearing in an escalator not just the escalator, fire alarm sensors not just fire detectors)
The general focus for IoT is in the application of near Real Time data, there are also specific Real Time data applications in manufacturing (eg in Robotics). M2M has been focused on the connectivity, which is part of the solution but IoT takes this further in enabling data to be turned into actionable insights for an organisation.
Share your views with us on the IoT hype and the impact you believe it will have on you.