Internet of Things and Embedded Systems, Part 1

I am not a purist when it comes to defining terms, so I am sure some readers may object to my saying that the Internet of Things (IoT) is a new name for what we used to call telematics, M2M, SCADA, WoT, Connected World, and the Industrial Internet. IoT is sometimes called the Internet of Everything (IoE). Also, it is safe to say that IoT has been discussed mostly in conjunction with social networking services (SNS).

I recently attended the RTECC conference in Santa Clara, CA, which focused on embedded systems. One of the keynote speeches, by Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors, was about the business opportunity for the Internet of Things. In the remainder of this blog, I summarize some of his points and offer my comments.

Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors

Logical vs. Physical Worlds

Rezendes made some good points. The first was to emphasize that the embedded community has a big influence over IoT. IoT has been discussed mostly in the context of SNS and the analytics of data produced by SNS such as Facebook and Twitter. This is understandable because SNS data, regardless of their structuredness (structured or unstructured data), are already online, and it is easy to gather and analyze them with information and communications technologies (ICT). SNS and data produced by them exist in the logical world rather than the physical world, where we live. Because of this, IoT based on SNS tends to put more weight on the data than on how to monitor and collect them. In other words, we can take it for granted that monitoring and collection are tightly integrated in the SNS system.

On the other hand, the physical world is drastically different from the logical world. Unlike in the logical world, in order to obtain data in the physical world we need to instrument, digitize, and connect things (physical objects). That is not easy unless we have the means to do so and some expert knowledge of each thing in each vertical market. We need to know what we want to measure (expert knowledge), such as temperature, pressure, voltages and currents, how to instrument each object (building and incorporating appropriate sensors), how to digitize the collected data, and how to connect and transmit the measured and collected data to the outside world.

Rezendes pointed out that in the physical world, 99.99% of things/objects are not connected. As in the logical world, people have started to realize that data play an important role in making decisions in operations and management. In other words, he added, there are many opportunities to instrument, digitize, and connect such things/objects, which may lead to multi trillion-dollar business opportunities.

This is where embedded systems enter the picture. To realize IoT with measured data collected with it, embedded systems are necessary, and they and their developers/programmers have a huge impact on IoT in the physical world.

Progression of Internet Computing

Progression of Computing

Although his terminology may not be widely used, we can see the progression of the Internet as shown above.

  •  Internet (Web) 1.0/2.0: basic connections. 1.18B PCs = $90B + 6B phones = $600B market
  • Internet 3.0 (SMAC: Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud): $3.7T market
  • Internet 4.0: 1T objects with $10T–$15T market

Using his terminology, IoT/Internet 4.0 has a huge market potential because anything and everything can be a target of the Internet of Things, i.e., the Internet of Everything. We should be able to identify each object with an IP address and measure, collect, and transmit its behavior in terms of relevant data associated with it. For example, wearable computing is getting a lot of attention, but it can be applied to people with mental and physical disabilities. In such a case, “wearable” would mean something slightly different from its current definition. In such an IoT, each person might be an object with an IP address.

Each vertical market and each object has its own requirements and constraints. Simply developing an embedded system that allows that alone would be a big business opportunity.

Continue to Part 2.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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