Opinion: Developing for a connected future

Opinion: Developing for a connected future
Liam is responsible for new and emerging technologies and innovation programs with customers and partners as well as relationships with UK developers and designers, IT professionals, students, startups and venture capitalists.

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As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a pervasive part of our lives, individuals are increasingly gaining the ability to use their “things” (data in other words) to improve their lives and businesses, and we should all be preparing for a truly connected future. When it comes to IoT in particular, what this means is a future driven by data, whereby it is collected by IoT devices, analysed and fed back into the world. This will allow us to understand more about ourselves, our environment and our businesses, and will ultimately empower people and organisations to consistently do and achieve more.

Yet for us to build the connected, data-driven world we are envisaging, the industry must take leadership for and act to address key IoT themes including: interoperability, security and privacy, and the potential for data-driven insights from IoT.

The role of interoperability

When it comes to the current state of IoT interoperability, today’s landscape includes a number of varying standards, which can be a barrier to entry for those getting started with IoT and can mean that solutions and devices are not always compatible. As a consequence, we need to address this technical challenge to harness the full potential of IoT. In order to truly embed this connectivity within our world, companies and developers must work together to agree on and comply with industry-wide standards.

The need for this openness is clear: consumers and businesses are looking to implement the best technology for their needs, and that will always be products and services that operate within their existing infrastructure. Furthermore, connectivity is vital when it comes to guaranteeing IoT’s reliability and ensuring that devices and software will always cooperate and connect, so that we can put our trust in IoT devices.

Front of mind: Security and privacy

Just as interoperability is vital at every level of IoT, security also needs to be woven in throughout, incorporated into the platforms that developers are building on, as well as the applications themselves. This is especially important given the unique security, privacy and compliance challenges posed by the millions of connected devices and trillions of device messages within IoT.

Therefore, developers must build in IoT security at a physical and virtual level for all of the components it relies on – including devices and data. Data is a particular issue as consumers must understand how their information is being collected, who can see this information and what is done with it. As such, developers must focus on privacy and security during the development of IoT projects.

Data-driven insights from IoT

It is only once IoT developers are working from a point of interoperability and security that the value of IoT can begin to be properly unlocked by both enterprises and consumers alike. Notably, this value will not be found in IoT hardware – as it is easy to assume will be the case – but in the richness of IoT data and what this can deliver. Of course, scale and architecture will be vital here, so that IoT can cope with the amount of real-time data that is being produced. However, in the broadest sense, the challenge for developers will be how to deal with the sheer and increasing volume of data at our disposal, as well as how to report on and make use of this data in intelligent ways.

Ultimately, the aim must be to ensure that the value we’re delivering to consumers and organisations remains in line with IoT capabilities. To do this, developers and business decision makers must think about how data implementations can help companies move forward and grow, by drawing insights from data that is currently being archived and wasted.

Preparing for a connected future

There are large multi-national vendors, consortiums and industry bodies working towards these goals, and pockets of the developer and maker communities understand the need to focus on such issues mentioned above. However, there is still enormous progress to be made with interoperability, security and data insights to ensure the potential of this disruptive technology is realised.

According to Gartner, we’ll have 26 billion devices by 2020 – so it’s not an issue of devices, and neither is it an issue of connecting them, it’s all about bridging the gap to develop an IoT that can cope with these requirements for data, openness and security. Many factors are becoming clear in today’s developer ecosystem, where IoT developers’ knowledge set must improve to beyond just electronics and hardware, networking and connecting, or how to visualise real-time data from devices. Instead, developing for IoT requires a whole spectrum of skills, and developers must be able to understand each part of its architecture in order to combine the required levels of interoperability and security with a data-led approach.

Do you have further thoughts on addressing the key IoT themes? Share them in the comments.

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