On the relative positioning of carts, horses and the Internet of Things

Published on the 19/09/2016 | Written by Newsdesk

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More of a concept than a reality right now, but don’t write off the IoT…

A man with an eye on the future has come out and said it: The Internet of Things right now is something of a series of solutions from technologists looking for problems to solve. The cart is in front of the horse, rather than the more traditional arrangement.

That, noted Vaughan Robertson, Group Manager – technology strategy at engineering consultancy Beca NZ, by no means indicates that the idea should be discarded or discounted. “Like a lot of technologies, this will change over time. But right at the moment, IoT is really at the proof of concept phase, rather than something which is addressing a driving need from customers. The ‘killer app’ has yet to be identified.”

Robertson is presenting at the forthcoming Internet of Things Conference this November and his views might mean a slight dose of reality to accompany the hype.

“This progression from idea to reality is far from unprecedented. There tends to be a slow start to the application of a new idea, largely to do with how to integrate new ways of doing things into existing frameworks. It tends to be a technological push rather than a business one – but the industry has shown time and again that it gets there, even if it tends to be a bit the wrong way around, by finding a great solution and then trying to find a problem for it.”

Robertson added that the long-held notion that IT tends to be too tech-focused rather than business-focused broadly holds. “But there is another side to that coin in that disruptive technologies often provide opportunities which are entirely outside of the business problems which are identified and exist.”

In other words, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns: there may be issues to which businesspeople are completely oblivious but which could change the course of their industry virtually overnight – disruption, in other words.

Robertson said that as with many other areas of the technology industry, these currents tend to flow as the outcome of ever-better developed ecosystems rather than point developments in any one area of specialty. When it comes to the IoT, the ecosystems are substantially advanced: there is near-ubiquitous connectivity, specialist low-power networks and standards are emerging, and the sensors themselves which will make ‘at scale’ IoT deployments possible are decreasing in cost while at the same time growing in capability.

There is, he said, a moment fast approaching where that killer app will emerge. “We’ll see someone come up with a use for the IoT that can be taken to the commercial world and which will blow away the opposition and it is likely to be something we haven’t yet thought of. The trick is to be in a position to recognise that innovation when it happens and be in a position to leverage it.”

Robertson said he keeps a close eye on many developments, among them the IoT, for this very reason. “There are rich veins of opportunity at the intersections of various developments – and the ecosystems behind them can mature rapidly, so timing is everything.”

The Internet of Things Conference takes place on 1 November 2016 at the Rendezvous Hotel in Auckland.
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