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IoT is here and there, but not everywhere yet

Stephen Lawson | Aug. 14, 2014
The Internet of Things is becoming real, but complexity may be holding it back.

But for the mass market of small and medium-size enterprises that don't have the resources to do a lot of custom development, even targeted IoT rollouts are too daunting, said analyst James Brehm, founder of James Brehm & Associates.

There are software platforms that pave over some of the complexity of making various devices and applications talk to each other, such as the Omega DevCloud, which RacoWireless introduced on Tuesday. The DevCloud lets developers write applications in the language they know and make those apps work on almost any type of device in the field, RacoWireless said. Thingworx, Xively and Gemalto also offer software platforms that do some of the work for users. But the various platforms on offer from IoT specialist companies are still too fragmented for most customers, Brehm said. There are too many types of platforms -- for device activation, device management, application development, and more. "The solutions are too complex."

He thinks that's holding back the industry's growth. Though the past few years have seen rapid adoption in certain industries in certain countries, sometimes promoted by governments -- energy in the U.K., transportation in Brazil, security cameras in China -- the IoT industry as a whole is only growing by about 35 percent per year, Brehm estimates. That's a healthy pace, but not the steep "hockey stick" growth that has made other Internet-driven technologies ubiquitous, he said.

Brehm thinks IoT is in a period where customers are waiting for more complete toolkits to implement it -- essentially off-the-shelf products -- and the industry hasn't consolidated enough to deliver them. More companies have to merge, and it's not clear when that will happen, he said.

"I thought we'd be out of it by now," Brehm said. What's hard about consolidation is partly what's hard about adoption, in that IoT is a complex set of technologies, he said.

And don't count on industry standards to simplify everything. IoT's scope is so broad that there's no way one standard could define any part of it, analysts said. The industry is evolving too quickly for traditional standards processes, which are often mired in industry politics, to keep up, according to Andy Castonguay, an analyst at IoT research firm Machina.

Instead, individual industries will set their own standards while software platforms such as Omega DevCloud help to solve the broader fragmentation, Castonguay believes. Even the Industrial Internet Consortium, formed earlier this year to bring some coherence to IoT for conservative industries such as energy and aviation, plans to work with existing standards from specific industries rather than write its own.

Ryan Martin, an analyst at 451 Research, compared IoT standards to human languages.

"I'd be hard pressed to say we are going to have one universal language that everyone in the world can speak," and even if there were one, most people would also speak a more local language, Martin said.



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