The evolution of IoT technologies
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most potentially transformative technologies of the digital era. We spoke to Andrew Scott, Head of Technology at Telstra Labs to find out more about the evolution of the IoT as it starts to scale up and become more prevalent.
While the Internet of Things is sometimes considered an emerging trend, we already live in an ‘IoT world’. “Anything with a sensor and a data connection is a candidate to be a ‘thing’,” says Andrew Scott. “Up until recently, the majority of connected devices were mobile phones but we are at the point where other connected devices such as lightbulbs and wearables, are becoming the bulk of ‘things’ on the IoT.”
The network mix
A number of network technologies support the IoT’s growth, including the global move towards 5G, LTE mobile, LPWAN, home Wi-Fi, Narrowband IoT, and Cat M networks. While on first glance it may seem that some technologies compete against each other, Andrew predicts that many of these will continue to coexist well into the future. “There continue to be use cases that suit certain types of connectivity. In the IoT for example, Narrowband IoT networks are great for long-term battery needs, but some applications require a higher powered LTE connection for large, fast data transfers.”
I don’t think we will call it the Internet of Things anymore. It will simply be the internet.
Moving forward, 5G will be a vital part of the technology mix. “A lot of the work on 5G has been focused on transitioning away from one generic IP network to specialised network connections,” Andrew says. “Think of it like going from a standard kitchen knife to a Swiss army knife: one tool that has lots of very specific options to address specific needs. In the case of networks, 5G enables us to trade off unneeded capabilities for the specific connectivity options/characteristics you need.”
It may also be that 5G becomes shorthand for the wider collection of networking technologies. “A lot of existing technologies will flow into 5G,” Andrew explains. “For example, Narrowband IoT enables customers to connect for 10-15 years so Narrowband IoT will be supported and integrated with other network connectivity types going forward.”
Is there anything holding back the IoT?
While interest in the IoT and the number of deployments has increased substantially, Andrew says that we haven’t yet begun to realise the full vision of the IoT. “When it comes to new technologies, the hype can over-estimate the short-term impact and underestimate the long-term effects.”
“IoT solutions will become more prevalent as industry starts to explore the long tail of opportunities. That requires developers to go out and solve their own problems using dev platforms and full end-to-end solutions, at the right price point for mass adoption. The growth of the IoT itself will also be supported as manufacturers start producing more products, devices and machinery with mobile connectivity built in. This will make it easier for devices to connect to the network without the user having to do much to set them up.
“We are starting to see the market heading in this direction, so I expect the scale and importance of IoT to continue to increase rapidly.” Andrew says that IoT leaders are also seeking to overcome other barriers to adoption, including concerns about the security of IoT networks and devices.
“Customers often first ask about cyber security. IoT security has come a long way in the last few years with better protocols and build practices. Customers should feel more comfortable now if they can access the skills and expertise to architect their IoT networks correctly.” And as adoption of IoT technologies grows and becomes the norm, Andrew says we will start to think about it differently.
“In the future, when everything is connected, I don’t think we will call it the Internet of Things anymore. “It will simply be the internet.”