The 'Internet of Things,' Beyond the Hype At Mobile World Congress

The so-called Internet of everything is becoming a reality, disrupting the tech industry

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Thu, February 27, 2014

IDG News Service (New York Bureau) — If you want to find out how the so-called Internet of things is shaking up the tech industry, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the place to be this week.

The phrase is becoming more than just hype. On display here at the show are a dizzying variety of networked wearables, car safety and infotainment systems, home monitoring technology and SIMs (subscriber identity modules) for all sorts of consumer and industrial appliances.

As businesses including telecom companies, car manufacturers, software-as-a-service vendors and networking equipment makers connect devices at an increasingly rapid pace, they are not only offering new services, but also disrupting their own industries.

Industry leaders speaking in panel sessions and keynotes at the show talked about the rate of change in breathless terms.

"There's no stopping it," said Joe Tucci, CEO of EMC. "The Internet of things is coming, and you better disrupt or prepare to be disrupted."

The term "Internet of things" emerged as a buzzword over the last year or so to describe the phenomenon of network-connected sensors incorporated into devices, such as thermostats, that in the past were standalone appliances.

"It's about connecting things together through sensors in a way that helps the consumers," said Cisco Systems' CEO John Chambers.

"Think about what you can do for the person watching TV at home when you can put sensors in the shoes of his favorite basketball team or in the basketball," Chambers said. Applications could include displaying analysis of patterns of play and ball movements, he noted.

Chambers even used a broader term, the "Internet of everything," including both smartphones and other mobile computing devices as well as Internet-connected appliances.

"When I came to Cisco there were about a thousand things connected to the Internet, now there are 10 billion; by the end of the decade there will be 500 billion," Chamber said.

Vendors need to make sure they are building products on a consistent underlying architecture, Chambers said. "The trick for winning in the home is to make things easy for the consumer to connect everything."

A similar scenario is true for business, Chambers said.

"When you can offer customers a consistent architecture, you reduce their capital expenditures for them," by simplifying operations and management of equipment infrastructure and related business processes, Chambers said.

There are incentives for vendors to do this.

"The financial rewards here get very large," Chambers said.

A wide range of industry insiders agree.

"Just about every business will become an IoT [Internet of things] business," said Jahangir Mohammed, CEO of Jasper Wireless. "The benefits are so profound that it is inevitable that this will happen."

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