Paul Brody, Global Industry Leader, Electronics, IBM
By Paul Brody
People have been talking and writing about the “Internet of Things” for more than a decade. It’s the idea that at some point billions of electronic devices and sensors will be connected to the Internet in parallel to the hundreds of millions of people who have access to the Net. But, unlike so many of the whiz-bang technologies that are forever predicted but never arrive, such as flying cars and time machines, the Internet of Things is on the verge of becoming a reality.
So, what exactly is bringing the Internet of Things to fruition? A big factor is the plunging cost of connectivity, which is being driven by the emergence of Heterogeneous Networks (often referred to as “HetNets”). HetNets offer a way to increase the density and bandwidth available to mobile devices.
To give you an idea of their potential scale, Free.fr, one of the world’s first HetNets, located in France, has more than 4 million WiFi hotspots connected to the network and enjoys data transfer costs that are probably far below $1 per gigabyte. While the rise of HetNets is driven by insatiable consumer demand for smartphone bandwidth, the biggest impact will be felt when it becomes cost-effective to connect just about anything (cars, washing machines, vending machines, lights etc.) to the Internet. And, anyone who was inLas Vegas earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show knows that this type of ‘uber-connectivity’ is no longer just a pipe dream.
The second major factor driving the Internet of Things is the explosion of low-cost, smart, standardized sensor networks. Consumer hobbyists are leading the way here. Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects is hosting numerous sensor projects that are designed to enable consumers to rapidly deploy and utilize large numbers of sensors around the home and office.