While trying to put my thoughts on paper for this post, I remembered one of the most entertaining TV shows that I recently saw: Shark Tanks. The show features a panel of potential investors, called “sharks”, who consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. Therefore, I start looking forward to all the great ideas and concepts that people wanted to bring to life, and the innovation contained within. The next thing that came to mind was what I consider to be one the most innovative concepts right now: the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things paradigm
If you would search the Internet for a definition of “Internet of Things” (IoT), you’ll get several versions. It is, after all, a concept that is continuously evolving. However, I consider the definition given by the IERC (European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things) to be pretty comprehensive: “a dynamic global network infrastructure with self-configuring capabilities based on standard and interoperable communication protocols where physical and virtual “things” have identities, physical attributes, and virtual personalities and use intelligent interfaces, and are seamlessly integrated into the information network.”
To illustrate, let’s imagine that the objects that surround us are equipped with sensors that could help them gather data and take decisions based on the actual context. Let’s assume that these objects could be uniquely identified and can exchange data in a secure manner in order to provide new services to consumers and businesses. A classic example is the smart refrigerator that can read the tags from stored groceries, and map these to products and services on the internet. Based on the gathered information, the fridge could provide you with:
- Basic information – such as the expiration date of the product, the recommended storing temperature, etc.
- More ‘intelligent information’ like recipes matching your current stock or the amount of calories that a certain product contains
- “Top deals” available in your neighborhood, based on your preferences
- Reminding you to buy beer for the football game that is about to start
IoT is everybody’s business
IoT is seen as a disruptive paradigm, and as such, the attention that it gets from governments and companies is increasing rapidly. In the U.S., industrial giants such as AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM, and Intel formed the Industrial Internet Consortium with involvement from the White House and other US governmental entities. The main purpose of this organization is to create standards for connecting objects, sensors, and large computing systems for some of the world’s largest industrial assets, such as oil refineries, factories or harbors.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the European Commission has invited stakeholders to offer their opinions and views on research and innovation challenges related to network technologies and IoT through a public consultation open until 27 June 2014. The European Commission has also taken other initiatives, such as allocating 51 million euro to be made available through ICT 30 -Internet of Things and Platforms for Connected Smart Objects under the Horizon 2020 Work Program.
There are also a lot of industries that could benefit from the development of IoT, such as retail, logistics, and energy suppliers, all of which has major implications for our society. In a recent study on IoT, Philips was declared one of ten most innovative companies in the world (mainly due to their Hue Lighting System). To me, this is a clear indication that this company understands the market transition and that they will invest a lot of resources in their Healthcare Division in order to integrate the existing solutions in the new IoT paradigm. Why do I mention this? Here is a tough statistic from the World Health Organization: 27,1% of the all the people that died worldwide (2012) suffered of cardio vascular diseases. If a company like Philips is looking to enhance its Remote Patient Monitoring Solutions (that currently permit secure data collection of weight, blood pressure, pulse, glucose levels, ECG rhythm), I’m pretty confident that their efforts will mitigate the amount of deaths related to cardio vascular diseases sooner than we think.
There are also major opportunities to increase your bottom line. As Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, explained: a 1 percent increase in fuel performance of GE’s fleet of jet engines provides a potentially massive environmental gain while also increasing profit for airlines by $3 billion – which is just about as much profit that industry made in the whole of 2013.
Leaseweb’s Role in the Internet of Things
Up to now, I’ve tried to take a closer look at IoT as a concept, and explain how it is perceived by the market. If you have begun thinking about how IoT can help you achieve your goals, I believe that my post has already reached its goal. So how can Leaseweb help in this evolution?
I think that one of the technologies that is going to make IoT adoption a lot easier is cloud computing. According to Gartner, by 2020 we are going to have 26 Billion connected units installed, all gathering and transmitting data in order to provide new services and applications. Just imagine the amount of information that will be generated by these smart objects, and the amount of concurrent data connections that are going to be initiated each second! If we add the fact that we want to access, filter, and analyze this information in a timely manner, using different devices, it’s easy to see why cloud computing is a technology that can support the IoT paradigm. And as Leaseweb is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider, with a whole suite of suite of solutions ranging from bare metal servers, cloud, CDN, and anything in between, we are actually in an ideal position to help you. Here’s how:
- For customers, we have a variety of products that could fulfill the existing demands by providing:
- Flexibility to facilitate architectural set-ups based on existing objectives
- Access to the state-of-the-art network to help maximize the potential of mobile, cloud, and smart objects with sensors
- Options to host an entire ecosystem of partners to boost productivity by sharing existing data more easily, which speeds up decision-making
- An API that gives our customers the possibility to integrate our services into their own systems
- The capacity to adapt to business challenges encountered by start-ups and mature business, such as a variety of contract terms and billing options
- For partners, we provide the framework they need to combine our infrastructure with their value added services, which includes:
- Designing, implementing and maintaining complex hardware infrastructure setups for production and testing
- Installing and maintaining complex software stacks that includes DBs, middleware, front end and back end applications
- Developing and maintaining security policies for data privacy purposes
On top of this, we have a competitive advantage, thanks to our data center space being located in strategic locations around the world. If we add, that in the Netherlands we are co-residents with AMS-IX (the Amsterdam Internet Exchange), the largest IX in the world, and that 33% percent of European datacenters are located here, then you might find other benefits of hosting your data in our locations.
We are living in exciting times; it’s up to us to understand how the Internet of Things can be used to bring innovation to our businesses – and our lives.
One last thing: during the latest Computer Electronic Show, a sensor was announced that could be attached to a tennis racket in order to analyze the power, the spin and the swing of your stroke. The data gathered during a match is transmitted using Bluetooth to an app installed on your phone, which then offers guidance to improve your technique. If I had such a device I probably would have been more successful during our latest in-company squash tournament. Congratulations Jasper Scheen and Marcel van ’t Hof, you won this time, but now I’ve already started preparing myself for the rematch!