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Accenture myths about the IoT toasters refrigerators internet of things


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Interesting read Kishore Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at Accenture, on the possibilities of the Internet of Things and the myths of the things that are stopping the thing called the Internet of things happening.

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Accenture myths about the IoT toasters refrigerators internet of things

  1. 1. This article originally appearedin the 2012, No. 1, issue ofThe journal of high-performance businessOn the EdgeToasters, refrigeratorsand Internet of ThingsBy Kishore S. SwaminathanDevices of various sorts are already communicatingand cooperating with IT systems and with one another.Here’s how to reap the benefits.
  2. 2. If you haven’t already heard of communicating and cooperating with Internet of Things, you soon will. one another and with IT systems is already very much a reality. The There is considerable business and second is to emphasize that to reap technological momentum behind the benefits, one must get past four Internet of Things, also known as common myths about IoT. IoT. Gartner has put IoT way up there in its hype cycle; practically every A look back major technology company is in the In the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web process of developing an IoT product; was a network of linked documents. a number of universities in the Search engines enabled you to find United States, Europe and Asia have the documents, and links enabled launched big RD programs in IoT; the you to navigate across them. But European Union is funding the massive many technologists envisioned the Internet of Things Initiative; and China Internet as much more than the Web. has identified IoT as a technology of Could the Internet also be populated national priority. by not just documents but objects that could discover one another, The proponents of IoT imagine a establish connections, communicate world in which billions of objects of and cooperate? various sorts (cameras, pacemakers, RFID tags, sprinklers—you name RFID—radio frequency identification— it) are connected to the Internet, was also becoming more common communicating and cooperating with at this time, lending credibility to one another. this idea. RFID tags are microchips that emit a simple signal to identify Why now? After all, this idea has themselves and can be attached to been around for well over a decade any object (so, by proxy, they can under different names—object Internet identify the object they are attached and machine-to-machine (M2M) being to). The scanner that detects the two of the better known—and has signal does not have to be in physical occasionally been the butt of jokes contact with the RFID tag, nor do (“Did you hear the one about what the the two have to be in each other’s toaster said to the refrigerator?”). So is line of sight. Technically, the contents this old wine in a new bottle? Or is this of an entire freight truck or even renewed interest based on some major a warehouse can be inventoried in a new technological breakthrough? moment using RFID. As it turns out, it’s neither. Much as The technology got a shot in the arm social networks came of age as when a major retailer, looking to build more and more people got online, a considerably more efficient supply networks of communicating objects are chain, announced that it would be proliferating as the world becomes requiring its major suppliers to tag their filled with more and more sensors and products with RFID. other intelligent objects, supporting a broad range of applications. However, Anticipating large-scale adoption there isn’t any identifiable single of IoT, languages for device technology called IoT that supports communication were proposed by the wildly different scenarios lumped technologists and consortia for object together under this term. Internet were formed. Further, many experts opined that if each object had The purpose of this article is its own unique Internet address, the twofold. One is to present a range 4 billion or so addresses available2Outlook 2012 of representative examples to under the Internet standard IPv4Number 1 show that devices of various sorts would not be adequate.
  3. 3. Although this problem could be amount of food and medication. A little solved by other means (such as higher up in the food chain from RFIDs Network Address Translation, are sensors that can measure one or one of the most commonly used more conditions in their environment. techniques today), a new standard— Smoke detectors and motion detectors IPv6—was developed to expand are now routine in safety and the available number of Internet surveillance applications; sensors addresses.1 collect your toll when you drive. From banking to border crossings, biometric Why this history lesson? To underscore sensors are increasingly finding their the point that the idea of IoT has a way into applications that require long history of failed technologies secure authentication of individuals. and promises in its wake. None of the proposed device communication In the utilities industry, smart meters standards gained any traction.2 The (also called AMI, or advanced large retailer revised its mandate metering infrastructure) measure several times, and nearly a decade a customer’s power usage every later, it implemented a much less few minutes and help power ambitious RFID-based supply chain. companies with demand prediction, Although IPv6 is more than a dozen which, in turn, can help with peak years old, the Internet continues to shaving and valley filling to optimize operate merrily with the ancient IPv4. the use of the power infrastructure. Sensors monitor equipment such as So, judged by past experience, IoT oil pipelines in remote locations to would seem more like bad old wine in identify cracks, leaks, malfunctions a new leaky bottle. and theft. Ubiquitous Motes (also called smart dust) are However, if we take a sober look at small, self-contained chips that can devices interacting with one another be scattered across a wide area and and with IT systems, we will find a wide integrate one or more sensors with range of applications today spanning a radio and battery. They establish multiple technologies and industries. communication among themselves to create an ad hoc network; collectively, RFIDs may not have revolutionized they can monitor their environment the world, but RFID applications are and raise an alarm when they detect an ubiquitous nonetheless. Your car key abnormal condition, such as a sudden has an RFID tag so that your vehicle temperature rise across a wide area. could not be hot-wired and driven Besides defense applications, motes away without your particular key; are being evaluated for detecting and your employee badge is RFID-based, monitoring forest fires. and so is your dog’s collar; hospitals use RFID tags to recognize and track Common myths the movement of human and medical The above is a smattering of applications assets ranging from medical equipment enabled by smart devices, ranging from to blood samples, even patients. On such mundane uses as identification the more esoteric side, sheep farms in and tracking to process control and the Australian Outback use RFID to adaptive decision making. identify sheep when they enter feeding stations and, based on the sheep’s However, to leverage the power of medical history, dispense the right devices communicating with one3 1. o be sure, IPv6 not only expands the address space; it also provides a much richer protocol for TOutlook 2012 communication across the Internet.Number 1 2. H P’s eSpeak had some traction in the auto industry, but is no longer supported.
  4. 4. another to achieve business value, communication protocols optimized for one has to get past four common a very specific application. myths and misconceptions about Internet of Things. In other words, its name notwithstanding, IoT has nothing materially to do with the Internet. Myth 1: IoT is a technology Although the term IoT is useful when Myth 3: Regulations on data referring to a wide range of applica- privacy is a critical enabler of IoT tions that involve smart devices, you may have noticed that there is precious Since sensors can track people and little in common—technologically— their behavior, critics often claim across the applications mentioned above. that privacy regulations are a critical Even among the RFID-based applica- enabler for large-scale adoption of tions (which can be replaced by any IoT. In my opinion, this is a holdover number of identification technologies, from the early days of RFID, when that such as magnetic strips and biometrics), technology was often mentioned in the there is very little in common context of consumer goods and retail. besides the RFID tags themselves. While applications that directly touch In other words, IoT is a concept, not a consumers and citizens will indeed single technology you’d buy off the shelf. get a fillip from the enactment of satisfactory data privacy regulations, most applications of IoT will have Myth 2: IoT is the next wave of little or nothing to do with consumers the Internet and data privacy. An oil company using sensors to monitor its Alaskan The term “Internet of Things” conjures pipeline or a kennel club using RFID up images of billions of objects freely tags to locate lost canines or a power discovering, communicating and generation company using sensors cooperating with one another over on its turbines to predict and avoid the Internet.3 This is not only a fairly potential failures—all applications in silly idea, it’s a dangerous one as operation today—do not fall within well, especially when the devices the purview of regulations or data can perform a physical action, such privacy concerns. as opening a door, turning on a conveyer belt, or opening and closing Even when data privacy is an issue, valves in a hydroelectric turbine in companies with imagination have response to a command that comes always found ways to overcome their across the Internet. consumers’ privacy concerns by inventing new business models. A well- A significant number of devices may known American insurance company use TCP/IP—the communication protocol has been able to sign up volunteers used by the Internet—to communicate who agree to have their driving habits within proprietary networks, but profiled by a special device installed that will be as close to the Internet in their automobiles; the insurer, in as they’ll get. In fact, many of the return, offers lower insurance rates to devices—the RFID in your car key, for good drivers.A credit card company, example—may not even communicate when presented with a transaction, to any network at all and may use uses location data from the customer’s4 3. stimates range from 50 billion to 1 trillion objects connected to the Internet by 2015. While I do EOutlook 2012 not doubt the number of objects, I seriously doubt that any significant percentage of them will beNumber 1 connected to and operated via the Internet.
  5. 5. cell phone and from the transaction to industries will be a much bigger identify potential fraud. enabler of IoT than any sweeping standard across heterogeneous In other words, companies holding devices that perform a wide range off on IoT because they’re waiting for of functions. Today, many companies data privacy regulations are liable to be are reaping significant benefits from waiting for a long time. device-to-device communication, ranging from asset tracking and supply chain optimization to unique, Myth 4: IoT needs device industry-specific applications such as communication standards customized pricing. Something else you’ll hear a lot As the IoT hype picks up—as I expect about in IoT discussions is the it will in the next year—common lament over the need for various myths about IoT are likely to be device communication standards. perpetuated. But IoT is nothing more Yes, standards are necessary if than a catchy name for a loose category random devices have to talk to other of applications that involve identifiers, random devices over the Internet. sensors and actuators working with one But, as pointed out above, most IoT another and IT systems. applications are likely to be highly specialized, communicating over But if you really insist that your proprietary networks. toaster talk to my refrigerator over the Internet, we can definitely use an To be sure, standards never hurt old, well-known standard: Esperanto. and are particularly useful for applications that cross organizational Kishore S. Swaminathan is basedOutlook is published by Accenture. and system boundaries (such as supply in Beijing. chain management). But I believe thatThe views and opinions in this article organizational imagination focused k.s.swaminathan@accenture.comshould not be viewed as professionaladvice with respect to your business. on specific applications in specificThe use herein of trademarks that maybe owned by others is not an assertionof ownership of such trademarks byAccenture nor intended to imply anassociation between Accenture and thelawful owners of such trademarks.For more information about Accenture,please visit © 2012 AccentureAll rights reserved.Accenture, its logo, andHigh Performance Deliveredare trademarks of Accenture.