The Internet of Things: A Four-Lens Perspective

By Frank Zachmann

To succeed, your IoT strategy must focus not just on the technology, but also on the users and the business case.


The Internet of Things has been a buzzword in the technology community for years. The phrase has become something of a catch-all for any and all new technologies that leverage connectivity to either streamline or improve a wide range of functions in our day-to-day lives. Until now, the conversation surrounding the IoT has largely positioned these technologies in the future tense. However, as interconnected devices are starting to proliferate, the IoT is becoming much more of a present reality.

The number of IoT connections globally is set to balloon from roughly 6 billion today to more than 27 billion in 2025. This projection indicates that many different stakeholders will be involved in developing this technology throughout the next decade. Those looking to claim their share of the potentially massive and lucrative market require a holistic view of all the components that make IoT introduction and integration successful. To do this, they need to view their IoT strategy through four lenses:

• The market: From the very beginning, there needs to be a proven market for the IoT device before the additional lenses can fall into step.

• The machine: The IoT device needs to work from a technology platform. This platform involves the application that controls data flow, as well as the interconnections between the device, the user and the data center in which this information will be delivered, processed and analyzed.

• The human: The user who will engage with the IoT technology also needs to be considered. This entails having a strong understanding of who the user is, while also keeping his or her data security top-of-mind at all times.

• The product: In order to truly deliver value, the device needs to be designed so that it’s fully integrated with the user and the underlying platform.

By marrying these lenses, companies can have a comprehensive view into the IoT that can help inform their strategy. The issue, however, is that many businesses lack the capacity or resources to bring these four lenses together, and they face overarching challenges in establishing strategy, digitization, security and the network.

Strategy First
Decision makers need to ask themselves: How much IoT does my company need? How much can we handle, and what is the return on investment? Locating an IoT platform on a server within a data center can help to seamlessly connect IoT applications and devices with the right market, while also allowing businesses to be flexible enough to scale the infrastructure according to the speed and direction in which the market takes them.

Going Digital
From there, the entire platform that underpins a piece of IoT technology needs to bridge the physical and virtual worlds. Businesses that have put off digitizing their physical technology must initially take this step before they can begin introducing IoT devices and applications into the enterprise. All of the connections need to be virtualized to enable the agility necessary to process the wealth of data being shared between IoT sensors, devices and the platform. Colocation within a digitally advanced data center can offer enterprises access to connectivity and cloud providers that businesses can use to virtualize their functions.

Safe and Secure
The IoT also presents unique scenarios that make security of not only the product but also the user critically important. How, for instance, can companies ensure that data is secure not only in terms of data privacy, but also from modern-day cyberattacks, such as on connected cars? Organizations need to guarantee that they have secure connections to cloud providers and carriers that can confirm the protection of user data that travels between IoT devices, applications and data stores.

Scaling the Network
All of these connections will inevitably make for massive networks. Companies must tackle the connectivity issues of billions of connected devices, which will need to be supported by next-generation wireless technologies like 5G. It’s critical that an organization’s network is in an environment that allows agility to support the platform on which the IoT technology runs, while expanding reach to customers.

Overcoming Challenges for a Holistic IoT Vision
To overcome these challenges and bring the four lenses together, organizations need to leverage a colocated data center that facilitates the technology, security, connectivity and reach required to help businesses succeed in the Internet of Things. Ideally, such a facility would have access to a network of data centers in order to reach IoT users at the edge, allowing for quicker exchange of data and more robust analytical capabilities.

Frank Zachmann is the director of strategy and marketing, digital enterprise, at Interxion, a European provider of carrier- and cloud-neutral colocation data center services. Prior to joining Interxion in 2014, Zachmann was the VP of business development for Europe, the Middle East and the Americas at internet services company Equinix. He started his career in 1996 as a business consultant for EDS, then held various managing positions for leading providers in the telco, managed services and data center sectors. He is also the chairman of the Digital Hub FrankfurtRheinMain e.V. and the international business ambassador of the City of Frankfurt.