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IOT's three key secrets to success

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Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about IoT or the Internet of Things. Google alone has indexed over 5,060,000 articles. In the past, we've talked before about how IoT is just an extension of what many of us have been doing for years in the M2M (Machine-to-Machine) space. A rebranding or re-imagining of sorts.

The key difference being that IoT is targeted at feeding end users and consumers with information and insight from these device networks or even using them, their phones or their vehicles as the sensors themselves.

IoT as a concept is starting to take shape nicely and promises a great deal. Some analysts and large companies in this space predict that by 2020, the number of connected devices will be anywhere between 20 billion and 212 billion.

With such large numbers being quoted, it's easy to understand why some analysts are predicting IoT as the catalyst for the third industrial revolution; an era fuelled by demand for more real-time services, solutions and big data propositions.

There is however still a long way to go before the market is mature and there are a few hurdles to go before we'll see mass adoption of solutions across both consumer and enterprise markets.

Here at Clearview Intelligence, we recognise that IoT will have a large impact on transforming operator and driver behaviour on our roads. But we feel there are three key criteria that need to be in place before it really starts to make travel easier, more efficient and safer.

Security a key risk

As with the emergence of any new technology, the scaremongering has already begun; concerns about hacking abound and stories will no doubt continue to hit the headlines for a while; some of this is justified and for sure, suppliers need to be diligent and ensure that device networks are made as impenetrable as possible and keep on top of evolving threats.

Most of these exploits are happening in the consumer sector but that is no reason to be complacent. As with any technology evolution lifecycle, security threats will be found and closed and new holes will be found, exploited and closed. The key is how we react to them or prevent them.

Communications central to driving economic activity

Without a doubt, the last decade has seen a seismic shift in the importance of real-time communications. Data transferring on a scale and at a speed that was unthinkable back in the 90s.

For IoT to thrive, data transfer is key. It is the lifeblood of IoT and the success or otherwise of any IoT deployment will hinge massively on how reliable its network is.

And if the predictions are true, then we absolutely have to find a better way to manage data communications from these 212 billion devices in a way that won't strangle other communications in the same way as many of our cellular infrastructure networks struggle today with large volumes of callers in the vicinity of any one cell.

To combat this, a number of other IoT focused communications standards are already appearing. Lots of difficult to pronounce acronyms: CoAP, MQTT, Thread, HomeKit, 6LoWPAN, Zigbee, BLE, Wi-Fi and LoRa to name but a few. Even Vodafone is now throwing its hat in the ring, making aggressive claims about how its NB-IoT will 'crush' other standards.

They all purport to be the next messiah of IoT communications...the reality is that no one of these standards is really likely to be suitable for all applications...and each of them certainly has its limitations.

Most of them are massively over-selling their range capability, forgetting that in the real world, those pesky annoyances like buildings, vehicles, other infrastructure and other RF noise tend to truncate these fantastical numbers down to something more inherently credible.

The key is to marry up requirements of the application and it likely evolution with the capability of the communications platform.

Low power the secret to making remote device networks sustainable

Having deployed remote traffic sensor devices at scale for over 40 years, we know only so well how critical it is to the sustainability and cost effectiveness of a network that the devices remain operational for as long as possible without human intervention. And efficient power management and making devices as low power as possible is key to extending their life in the field.

Equally, in many locations, it is either too costly or complex to provide mains power to drive remote sensor devices. So self-powered devices is often the only option.

But as the number of these devices multiply, so does the magnitude of keeping them all working. Solar power offers a more sustainable, long life option, but balancing power consumption needs against the available solar energy is a difficult balance and many are still struggling to get this right.

Added to this, it is often the communications with these devices that is the most power hungry element; 'always on' communications protocols like 3G and 4G are particularly power zapping. Because of this, they require significantly higher amounts of solar energy to be harvested, to a point that for some devices it actually becomes impractical.

It's a delicate balance, but having a remote device network where you have to replace the batteries every few weeks is hardly a sustainable business model.

The new communications standards mentioned earlier are trying to address this problem, but only the future will tell.

Interested in how we are integrating systems and technology to help make journeys easy, efficient and safe? Ring us on +44 (0)1869 362800 or contact us.

Author: Wayne S |Date Published: May 2016

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