Internet of things will reshape CIO agendas

Inside the Internet of Everything lies the Internet of Things (IoT). This has been with us for a long time. Indeed, the term was first used in 1999 when Kevin Ashton, who was then with Belkin, blended the RFID and Internet concepts together. At that time these tags were passive, drawing their energy inductively from the reading device. They were only transient members of the IoT. Since then some have been equipped with batteries and transmitters that enable them to autonomously announce their presence to the outside world.

Today's full IoT end-points are devices that can also sense their surrounding environment or act on it, both requiring internet access to some kind of computing device. The end points could be in homes, cars, fields, water treatment plants, railways – anywhere that would benefit from remote monitoring and complementary beneficial actions.

As with so many technical developments, the IoT term took a while to catch on but it accelerated following the official World IPv6 Launch in June 2012 and its promise of more or less infinite IP addresses (340 trillion, trillion, trillion of them). Then the futurologists started dreaming up all sorts of weird and wonderful applications from driverless cars to a whisky bottle that links to a personalised YouTube video greeting (http://tinyurl.com/btxwdse). A ghastly low point occurred earlier this year when Fundawear (http://tinyurl.com/c4q7p4y) announced vibrating underwear which lets your partner fondle you remotely through their iPhone touch screen.

This and, indeed, many of the other madcap IoT inventions have little to do with the CIO. But you are probably already familiar with Machine-to-Machine (M2M) developments, even if you haven't been directly involved. Many of them have been restricted to vertical applications in manufacturing, buildings, retail, utilities, transport, logistics and so on. Many have worked perfectly well without going anywhere near the IT department but this will change, largely thanks to 'the cloud'.

ICT vendors are now licking their lips at what they see as a massive opportunity through IP-addressable devices able to exchange information in meaningful and previously unplanned ways, without human intervention. As you might imagine, we're still a long way from this. It needs standard protocols and raises security and information privacy issues for organisations and individuals alike. If any of this data happens to flow across your network, then you are likely to become involved.

One of the problems with all the gung-ho predictions is that most of them are predicated on IPv6 being widely adopted, on adequate network coverage and on the devices having the brains, the power and the need to participate in this way.

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