In 2013, expect the 'Internet of Things' to take off
Friday, Jan 4th 2013

Computer scientists have speculated about the rise of machine-generated data for years. In 1999, a technologist named Kevin Ashton coined the term "the Internet of Things" to describe an interconnected future in which data gathered from sensors and other electronic tracking devices could be used to control machines and drive insights. Although the implementation of the vast networks of remote sensors and accompanying analysis tools to turn data into insights has been relatively slow, 2013 is likely to mark the year the Internet of Things finally becomes a reality, according to a number of analysts.

"[W]ith the rise of sensors that can deliver real-time pictures of environmental and other conditions, we are soon to be able to see and understand where and how resources are being used," Aron Cramer, president and CEO of business sustainability group BSR, wrote for the Guardian. "It is highly likely that we will have the ability to achieve massive improvements in efficiency by making wise use of these technologies."

A recent MIT Technology Review blog post also highlighted the rise of the Internet of Things, pointing out findings from Australian researchers that developments in technologies such as sensors, storage and processing have made collecting, storing and analyzing large data sets easier than ever before. The result is that the large amounts of data being generated by sensors and other machines are going to start having real world effects.

"The message from [lead researcher Arkady] Zaslavsky and co. is that the Internet of Things is coming of age and growing at an exponential rate," wrote a contributor from the Physics arXiv forum. "If it doesn’t already influence your life in a way you recognize, it soon will."

The cloud's role in powering insights
In the paper referenced by the MIT Technology Review, researchers suggested that big data from sensors and other sources could improve healthcare, business and supply chain management processes. However, such capabilities have only become possible with the elastic infrastructure of the cloud.

"Connecting and managing sensor[s] via cloud is a critical milestone in the process of sharing sensors and sensor data in [a] sensing as a service model," researchers noted.

At the moment, there is a growing gap between the amount of information available to organizations and their ability to process it. As cloud computing offers the resources to close this gap, researchers predict there will be a rise in sensing as a service, in which data from sensor networks is made purchasable or publicly available in the interest of generating insights. In addition to sensor data, context information such as where sensors are located and how they are configured will also be stored.

With this wealth of information, organizations will increasingly be able to drive decision making by accessing or buying data from sensor networks provided as a service. For instance, the study noted, an ice cream company might purchase data from temperature sensors in consumer refrigerators to improve its own cold storage management processes. Individuals, organizations and governments may all eventually be able to publish their sensor data and see financial returns, the study predicted.

As such data sharing grows, organizations may want to look at new ways to leverage the information from their environmental monitoring networks. By installing remote monitors such as those offered by ITWatchDogs, companies may find that they have valuable data not only for improving their own operational procedures but also for sharing with other enterprises in a variety of industries. Given the expansion of the Internet of Things, as well as improvements in big data analytics, the amount of information available for finding efficiency gains in all industries is likely to rise.