IoT: The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Choosing the right platform can provide the necessary security levels and reduce how much time companies spend testing and deploying security measures.
Published: July 14, 2019

It’s hard to come up with an industry that will not be affected in some shape or form by the Internet of Things (IoT)—everything from travel and manufacturing to health care and retail. There are billions of connected devices globally, with some estimating that by next year there could be more than 50 billion devices connected. In this ever-connected landscape, the IoT will play a big part in reshaping industries and markets, with many now defining it as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). So what can we expect?

The IoT allows for organizations across all business verticals to look at new and different ways to go about things, and it will also witness the birth of completely new businesses sporting an entirely different outlook. Important business processes, such as asset tracking, data gathering and new business modelling, to name but a few, will see enhancement through the introduction of IoT infrastructure.

A great example of such changes can be seen in manufacturing processes, in which budgeting becomes increasingly more efficient because centralized data monitoring allows the measurement of industrial plant usage, allowing businesses to predict faults in advance and decrease any potential downtime; in this way, services can be carried out before any faults can arise and associated costs can be minimized. Indeed, all data collected in this fashion can be vigorously analyzed, with the outcomes driving all kinds of change and improvements. If you can build a sensor for it, then any “thing” can be closely scrutinized to provide data regarding usage, location, ambient temperature, moisture levels, ad infinitum.

The practice of collecting data and using it so that businesses can improve accordingly isn’t groundbreaking. However, with the advent of modern cellular communication (5G is on the horizon) and the internet, the IoT will herald data gathering, access and analytics on a global access, all with relative ease. Of course, there are challenges on the road to IoT ubiquity, which will arise in areas such as security and data privacy, and there also needs to be a measure of network standardization from an infrastructure point of view. These challenges are not insurmountable, however, and the correct IoT strategy will help to deliver enhanced experiences for industry and a positive knock-on effect for consumers.

Taking the IoT Plunge
When businesses turn their attention to an IoT strategy, there are many factors to take into consideration that cover everything from data and security to infrastructure and hardware. Perhaps a good start is to understand the value proposition. While this requires a good deal of time and effort, it is critically important to get it right. Engaging with the right IoT partner can go a long way toward saving time and money in the long run.

Such a company should have the requisite experience to supply the time-consuming research needed for a business to answer the many questions that will arise. After all, information is everything. Internally, the impetus for pursuing an IoT project doesn’t necessarily have to come from the traditional IT department. However, there is no reason why it can’t come from the bottom up, or even sideways. With an increasing influx of bright students graduating in studies closely connected to the application of the IoT, there will be a growing group of important influencers. Also, look in different places than you normally would with a traditional IT project and, if need be, adapt your HR strategy.

The IoT is appearing everywhere, and the need for devices to measure the data from a never-ending range of trackers and sensors is becoming overwhelming. IoT strategies need the physical device to gather and transmit the data, as well as logical dashboards to monitor outcomes. Your ideal IoT partner will have a number of relationships with appropriate device manufacturers that will facilitate the ability to work their platforms, as well as relationships with those software vendors that produce dashboards for any application.

Data and Security
Creating, analyzing, communicating, aggregating and then acting on data are all key elements of any IoT system. Whatever platform you end up using, it should ideally allow you to interact with a wide range of devices to collect information without too much fuss, and then display it on numerous dashboards. In an ideal world, it should also allow your organization to send data back to the device as firmware upgrades. If this is not possible, then new triggers for data collection facilitate two-way communication between the device and your organization.

We are only ever moments away from another media story regarding a cyber-attack or a major hack. With so many devices becoming connected, IoT consumers are rightly concerned about security. Creating and managing data these days comes with wider legal ramifications—think GDPR, for example. Choosing the right platform will provide the required security levels and can help to reduce how much time is spent overall on testing and deploying security measures.

Lee Stacey is the chief noisemaker and product evangelist at Thingstream, which removes the complexity of creating and managing remote IIoT applications. The company combines connectivity and application management into a unique single platform. Lee has 25 years of experience working with technology-based companies, ranging from regional SMEs to global enterprises.